"Houston, We Have an Armored Car Robbery Problem"

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
houston we have an armored car robbery problem

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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2 of 16 comments
  • RHD I wonder if these will be as easy to steal as so many other Kias are...
  • Zerog Isn't this the car that the self anointed AutoExtremist said would finally shut down Tesla AND the Prius?Just like his father - that Detroit bubble does him no good
  • Zerog When will the media admit that Mary Barra has simply been a disaster of a CEO, and "Dan the Man" Akerson is to blame?
  • Tassos When the Volt was on sale, it cost twice as much as the (better looking!) Chevy Cruze on which it was based. The interior of the Volt did not match that lofty price either. I like plug-in vehicles with a good Electric only range and no range anxiety. People with a 40 mile commute each way, if they were allowed to free charge at the office especially, could save some $ with the Volt, but not as much as to justify its lofty price.The 2nd gen VOlt was less nerdy looking than the 1st, but also even more similar to the new Cruze and indeed the Civic, which cost almost HALF. Then the geniuses at GM made a 2-door Caddy out of the Volt, the ELR, which was much smaller inside than the already cramped Volt, and... asked for... 4 times the price of the CRUZE. Don't remember the failed Caddy Cimarron? Neither did those morons.So a good idea in principle was screwed beyond recognition. GM Bled billions despite the lofty price, sold a bunch of VOlts, and finally had to cry "UNCLE". The end.I am not at all attracted by the VOlt's lousy interior. Its gas only MPG is also lousy compared to the ICE competition. A prius was 50% cheaper and far more sophisticated mechanically and got a stellar 50 MPG overall, and could be had in plugin with 10-20 mile range (the current one will double that again).
  • Buickman GM marketing killed many a car.