BLOODSHED IN THE BANKS

FROM EAU CLAIRE TO ORLANDO, ROBBERIES ARE UP SHARPLY THIS YEAR. IS HOLLYWOOD TO BLAME?

When Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker robbed banks during their legendary two-year crime spree in the 1930s, they did so in part because it was easy. America was a more trusting place, and small-town banks offered unprotected targets and quick getaways. Now, 63 years later, a rapidly growing number of criminals appear to have again decided that robbing banks is easy money--against considerable evidence to the contrary.

After five years of steady decline, the number of bank robberies in the U.S. shot up abruptly in 1996, and has accelerated so sharply in the first three months of 1997 that many cities...

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