DENVER (CBS4/AP) – The FBI says bank robberies are on the rise in the Denver metro area partly because street gangs are getting involved in heists.

So for this year 81 bank robberies have been recorded in Denver as of Tuesday, surging past 64 reported over the same period last year.

Denver FBI spokesman Dave Joly said they are concerned because the increase includes more violent, takeover-style robberies and more robberies linked to gangs who may use them as a rite of passage.

“As an initiation — that could be one possibility; drug purchase, weapons purchase; there could be a lot of reasons,” Joly said.

Colorado has the second highest rate of bank robberies per capita in the country.

In January an Aurora bank was robbed by two brothers; one of them was shot by an officer. In April a robber at a bank in Westminster ordered customers and employees to the ground then jumped over the counter and stole money.

“They get away with a little bit more because they have three people and time is the factor. That’s what they’re trying to work against,” Joly said.

A joint effort of local, state and federal law enforcement called The Safe Street Task Force is working with the Metro Gang Task Force to address the new threat.

Culprits face up to 20 years in prison if convicted. About 85 percent of bank robberies since 2007 have been solved.

“The average bank robbery money that they get is minimal,” Joly said. “It’s not worth 20 years in prison for the small amount of cash that they do get.”

(TM and © Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)


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