Law enforcement officials are sounding the alarm over a spike in “jugging” thefts, in which thieves patiently follow victims from ATMs, banks or stores to their homes or other locations before committing violent robberies.
Police report that bank customers in affluent urban areas of Texas, California and Florida have been victims of the crime.
Police said a Houston man was arrested Friday after following a Bank of America customer who had just withdrawn a large amount of cash. Security video, they said, captured images of Terrence Thompson, 59.
A recent report from ABC’s “Good Morning America” said Austin has recorded 84 jugging cases this year.
On Sept. 14, the Austin Police Department announced the arrest of a man they accused of stalking a customer from a Bank of America branch in North Austin. Jamarcus Drumgole, 31, was charged with assault and robbery at the customer’s apartment.
In California, a woman was robbed in her driveway after she withdrew a large sum from North Stockton Wells Fargo Bank, Stockton’s ABC-10 news outlet reported Wednesday. The thief, who followed her home on the five-minute drive during the lunch hour, took her purse with her money, credit cards, ATM card and cellphone — and charged $4,000 to her name within the hour.
“All of a sudden, I heard tapping on my window, and it was just so quick and the window was being broke out and I started screaming,” the woman, who wished to remain anonymous, told ABC-10.
The Stockton Police Department said it had received at least four “jugging” complaints this year.
On Sept. 8, the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office in Florida announced that two state residents accused of bank jugging in Alabama were also charged in a four-county smash-and-grab crime rampage.
Police said Isaiah Demarcus Satterfield and Bakaria Rayveon Fisher followed bank customers to their next stops and then smashed their car windows and stole their money.
Bank of America and Wells Fargo did not respond to requests for comment on incidents involving their branches.
According to law enforcement data, jugging has surged during the pandemic.
Authorities say the best way for people to prevent jugging is to avoid waving money and purchases in their hands as they walk out of banks or stores — and to pay attention to who might be watching.
The term “jugging” reportedly goes back decades. Some businesses brought cash to banks in jugs, though other etymologists say the word is an old nickname for bank bags.
In Texas, the Fort Worth-based law firm Varghese Summersett reports on its website that jugging typically leads to aggravated robbery and burglary of a vehicle or home.
Jugging also takes the form of “follow-home retail thefts,” in which thieves tail shoppers to their cars or homes. Some thieves wait for the owners to disappear before breaking in; others do not.
In follow-home retail thefts, thieves look for products to repackage and resell at lower prices — including baby formula, over-the-counter medications and teeth-whitener strips. The items have often expired by the time they hit the black market.
Daniel Lacalle, a professor of global economics at IE Business School in Spain, said bank jugging tends to rise when crooks need fast cash in difficult economic times.
“It is usually a sign of a weakening economy when some citizens feel compelled to take the risk of stealing from customers of a bank without robbing the bank itself because it is perceived as a small crime,” Mr. Lacalle said in an email Tuesday.
Some areas have taken steps to crack down.
In December, California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced more than $30 million in public safety funding for police and prosecutors to fight a statewide rise in violent property and retail crimes. The Democrat’s initiative followed a rash of smash-and-grab retail thefts and jugging attacks in the Los Angeles area.