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May 29th, 2013 ANDREA DAMEWOOD | News Stories
 

Neato Bandito

Why cops are increasingly using nicknames to catch robbers.

news3_3930ROSES BY ANY NAME: The trick to good bandit names is to make them unflattering to the criminal, but still catchy to media, cops say. - IMAGE: Craig Church
     
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When the cops arrested 46-year-old Weston Miner Rogers for robbing three local banks, Portland police crowed in a press release about the capture of the “Hammer Pants Bandit.”

Why the nickname? It had nothing to do with MC Hammer’s signature balloon pants, but because during one robbery Rogers carried a hammer in his sleeve.

“He had a hammer and he wore pants,” Portland Police Bureau spokesman Sgt. Pete Simpson tells WW. “‘Hammer sleeve’ doesn’t have that same zeal.”

In the past few years, local police have started aping the FBI’s tradition of giving catchy nicknames to bank robbers.

In all, local police have stuck at least 25 alleged criminals with “bandit” nicknames. There’s been the Hipster Bandit, the Where’s Waldo Bandit and recently the Bad Tan Bandit, who had what police described as “an artificial tan color to his skin” during a May 15 holdup at the Bank of the West branch at 8135 SE Division St.

It’s all about getting publicity for the police. Since 2010, the FBI has granted Portland and other area police departments authority to lead bank-robbery investigations. The nicknames come with the new responsibilities.

Portland FBI spokeswoman Beth Anne Steele says the better the bandit name, the more media buzz it will get.

“If you come up with a good name, it often sticks,” Steele says. “It keeps interest with the public, and they are more willing to call in with tips.”

But there’s also a psychology to the snicker-inducing bandit names, police explain: raising the criminal’s notoriety while also  embarrassing the robber.

“You want a name that has something to do with the case, and at the same time doesn’t give the person a lot of credibility,” says Portland police Det. Brett Hawkinson, the bureau’s lead bank robbery investigator. “The ‘Bad Ass Motorcycle Bandit’ would be awful. Something more like the Dopey Bandit is more appropriate.”

And it works: WW’s review of news websites shows local media have frequently helped cops hype the alleged criminals’ nicknames—KATU, KPTV and Oregonlive.com doing so most often. (WW has as well, in posts at wweek.com about the Hammer Pants, Where’s Waldo, Hipster and Chia Pet bandits.)

Kelly McBride, a media ethics expert at the Ponyter Institute, says readers and viewers have reason to wonder if the media are too cozy with police when they see news reporters quick to repeat the branding cops put on suspects.

“They are playing this game and using the gimmick to get media to pay attention,” McBride says. “The audience should question if the journalists are partnering with the police or thinking about what actually serves the public best.” 

WW intern Ashley Jocz contributed to this story.


WW’s Survey (Inside our own Newsroom) of the Top 10 Catchiest Bandit Names Used by Portland Police.

1. The Hammer Pants Bandit. Real name Weston Miner Rogers; arrested April 18 and charged with robbing three Portland-area banks.

2. The Bad Tan Bandit. Police are still looking for the orange-skinned suspect. 

3. The Where’s Waldo Bandit, thanks to his thick glasses, striped shirt and ability to blend in—for a while, anyway. In 2010, police arrested Ryan M. Homsley for holding up a bank in Tualatin. Homsley sped up his own arrest by posting on his Facebook page: “im now a bank robber.”

4. The Chia Pet Bandit, named for his spiky hair. He’s still wanted for robbing three banks in Clackamas and Washington counties in 2010.

5. The Droopy Drawers Bandit, who was seen repeatedly pulling up his pants during a convenience-store robbery in Salem in March 2011. Police later arrested Kevin Anderson after he turned himself in.

6. The Beastie Boys Bandit, because he looked like he’d just walked out of the rap group’s “Sabotage” video wearing a fake mustache, aviators and a wig. Michael Aaron Hayden pleaded guilty in May 2012 to two counts of bank robbery and is serving a 12-year sentence in federal prison.

7. The Hipster Bandit. Harvie Dale Oglesby III was suspected of robbing five Portland banks between July and November 2012. One witness said Oglesby “looked like a hipster.” He was arrested riding his bicycle, allegedly fleeing from a robbery of a credit union on  Northeast Sandy Boulevard. His trial is pending.

8. The Burgerville Bandit, who stole cash from a cash register at the Burgerville on Southeast Powell Boulevard in July 2012. Two employees chased him down. Dewayne Charles Taylor was later convicted of robbery.

9. Dopey the Bandit, whom police thought looked a lot like the dim one in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Bradley John Kehm was arrested in January for 11 robberies. He faces state and federal charges.

10. The Bad Hair Bandit, aka Cynthia Van Holland, for a series of wigs she wore during her crimes. Police suspected her of robbing 19 banks in four states. In September 2010, Holland was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison.

 
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