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Houston Leads the Nation in Armored-Car Robberies

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You may have seen The Town, a Ben Affleck-directed movie about a crew of armored-car robbers from Charlestown, a Boston-area neighborhood known for producing armored-car robbers. Houston, it seems, has become the new Charlestown.

As the New York Times reports, the Houston metropolitan area has seen a recent spate of armored-car robberies, one-third of the total nationwide:

All 11 robberies in the Houston region occurred outside banks, check-cashing stores and other businesses as the guards were handling thousands of dollars in cash while walking to or from their trucks or servicing A.T.M.'s. The most recent came on Friday morning, when a gunman drove off in an armored van on the University of Houston campus and later abandoned the vehicle nearby. The authorities did not say how much money was taken.

And one company, GardaWorld, who has been the victim of four of the eleven armored-car robberies, has taken a very (stereotypical) Texan-based approach to fighting back against these thieves, even though its based in Montreal, Canada:

"We're letting the bad guys know: We're going to defend ourselves," said Robert Hatchett, the senior manager for GardaWorld's Texas operations. "They can expect, in one way or another, to pay. They're going to pay for it with physical injury, harm, possible death. They're going to pay for it with prosecution, and they're going to pay for it with restitution. We're not going to let it go."

That sounds good, GardaWorld. You should help Texas burnish its reputation as a shoot-em-up place and threaten death to anyone who messes with you. One can already see the headline: "Two Civilians Dead, Three Wounded in Armored-Car Robbery Shoot-Out." It was just like a movie, said one bystander.

The Times quotes one expert who does not think GardaWorld's chest-thumping is the best approach:

Jim McGuffey, who spent nearly 30 years in the industry and now runs a security consulting business in South Carolina, was skeptical of the effectiveness of GardaWorld's campaign. "It's unusual that a carrier would have a conversation with the press following a robbery," Mr. McGuffey said. "If that is their style, to try to talk to the bad guys if you will, that's not going to be as effective as working in collaboration with law enforcement in a proactive fashion."

The authorities told the Times that they believe the robberies stem from one loosely-connected group.

Slightly more happily are two final notes: (1) there does not appear to be anything endemic to Houston that makes it the nation's leader in armored-car robberies; and (2) contra Ben Affleck's crew in The Town, the Houston gangsters are amateurs. Let's just hope the FBI catches up with them before GardaWorld's gun-toting guards do.

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