By on March 28, 2017

Brinks truck armored car

For a major city, Houston drivers spend far less time in rush-hour gridlock than those in other large U.S. metropolises. Last year, residents spent an average of 51.5 hours in gridlock, a number unchanged from the year before. Compare that to Los Angeles’ 104.1 hours, Atlanta’s 70.8, Washington, DC’s 61 or Boston’s 57.6.

Overall, Houston ranks the 11th worst city in the U.S. for congestion, despite having the fourth-largest population. The city’s relatively low density and spiderweb of highways makes traversing the urban area an easy task — a benefit for residents who enjoy the leafy suburban life.

Unfortunately, it could also explain the city’s popularity among armored car thieves.

According to Houstonia, citing FBI data, Houston recorded 30 armored car robberies between 2013 and 2016. That’s about one-fifth the total for the entire country during the same period. For four years running, Houston has held the title of America’s armored car robbery capital.

Certainly, there’s some unique element — or elements — that make Houston a more attractive place to knock off a Brinks truck than in other U.S. cities. But what are they? Those who make a living looking at such things believe it could be the factors that make the city an attractive place to live for property owners and motorists.

In 2015, FBI Director James Comey cited the city’s “breathtakingly large surface area,” which could make it easy for criminals to slip away before responding police officers arrive. Dr. Everette Penn, professor of criminology at the University of Houston–Clear Lake, suggested to Houstonia that a spread-out population with lots of banks practically begs for such crimes of opportunity. The trucks would simply have to cover more ground than in other cities, the professor said.

It could be that, but a map of recent armored car heists suggest that the road network could play a major role. According to Houstonia:

Plotting all 30 robberies doesn’t show any geographic correlation (aside from a small cluster near Greenspoint), but most took place within a couple blocks of a freeway—and frequently near the intersection of two major arteries, upping the potential avenues for a quick getaway.

Close proximity to escape routes is a valuable asset for criminals, but Houston could also be the victim of a statistical blip. After pulling off a successful heist, an armored car robber could be tempted to do it again. And again. Usually, with accomplices. That’s the case in several recent high-profile arrests, said FBI special agent Shauna Dunlap.

“Typically these types of crimes are [committed by] serial offenders, so you’ll see the numbers spike, but once you catch them they go down again,” Dunlop said.

Houston police and the FBI have already made progress via a joint investigation that began last year. Three suspected armored car thieves were arrested in December and another killed in a shootout following a sting operation designed to catch the killers of two armored car guards.

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16 Comments on ““Houston, We Have an Armored Car Robbery Problem”...”

  • avatar
    Felix Hoenikker

    I used to travel to Houston for work and stay for 1-2 weeks at a time. Highway 225 along the ship channel is amazing and handled rush hour traffic at full speed if there were no accidents.
    I agree with the observation about the size of the city. The area inside outer ring road is almost rural, small farms and lots of open land even though it’s inside the city limits.
    If it just wasn’t so damn hot and humid for eight months of the year!

  • avatar

    Nothing but the best writers here! How creative of you to associate Houston with that phrase, must have taken some real creativity to get this post out.

    Stale, boring & most importantly – lazy.

  • avatar

    “breathtakingly large surface area,” you sure Comey wasn’t talking about the commander-in-chief’s ego?

  • avatar

    Brinks bought out Mayne Nicholas Armoured Cars in Australia. They did not last long as they were in turn taken over by a French Security Firm, Prosegur

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  • avatar

    Saw a show about the southies robbing armored cars in the 80s and 90s. They would steal dustbuster minivans and leave the screwdriver in stabbed into the seats. They also did tons of drugs, literally like the characters in GTA (the second one in NY). It is a miracle they got away with it for so long.

  • avatar
    George B

    I’m surprised that this is a problem. Vehicle tracking using GPS with communication via cellular networks is inexpensive. Install a couple units for redundancy considering the value of the cargo. Dash cam products have become widely available so there’s no reason we can’t have stolen armored car video to compete with crazy Russian car videos.

    • 0 avatar

      Um, I’m pretty sure that the armored car (truck) is not what is being stolen. Any thief dumb enough to try taking the truck itself will not get very far very fast, and will certainly not be successful enough to make a repeat performance.

  • avatar

    It isn’t like they don’t have a blueprint right on the Internets:

  • avatar

    When I worked at a bank we had yearly security training by a police officer. He said the same thing, smart robbers hit a location close to a highway for a quick getaway.

  • avatar

    That armored van needs more poke. And vogues.

  • avatar

    When I was in Houston for a week, it was impossible to walk anywhere. Too many damn highways.

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