Whenever one goes to the bank, whether to the drive-through teller, the ATM or into the lobby, there is always a chance of a “jugging” waiting to happen to just the unsuspecting person. That person could be you but with a little caution and planning, your chances can be minimized or avoided.
Officer Jeff Bierden of the robbery division of the Houston Police Department (HPD) provided a thorough and descriptive presentation of juggings at the Sept. 21 Kingwood Positive Interaction Program. It was a most timely presentation as Kingwood HPD Officer Jesse Morales had just described a particularly costly Kingwood jugging in August where a man had withdrawn $3,300 in cash from the Chase Bank and drove to a nearby store. While he was in the store, a suspect broke through the rear window of his car, took the cash and drove off. Morales explained the word jugging was thought to have evolved decades ago when people would transport money in bags, or jugs, usually to and from a bank.
“The term is used to describe suspects who sit in bank parking lots and watch customers come and go into the bank. The suspects then follow a customer they believe to be in possession of cash and look for an opportunity to either rob him or her directly or to burglarize them,” Bierden said.
He presented a series of short videos that he and the HPD have put together using security and cellphone videos taken by the public. They showed how the juggers stake out the parking lots, follow people, break into the vehicles or suddenly attack the victims while they are entering or exiting their vehicles. He pointed out there is usually more than one suspect participating in the crime and often more than one vehicle, used to both surveil the parking lots and commit the robbery or burglary.
Bierden summarized recommendations to minimize the chances of being a victim.
“Things to do when banking: notice occupied vehicles backed into parking spaces with a clear view of the front doors to the bank, ATM or commercial drive-through line,” he said and noted the vehicles often have their windows tinted.
“Notice vehicles arriving at the bank with no occupants entering the bank. Notice vehicles periodically changing parking spaces and notice vehicles with multiple occupants. Jugging suspects rarely work alone,” Bierden said.
You can better protect yourself by always being aware of your surroundings and concealing money before leaving the bank.
“Never openly carry bank bags, envelopes or coin boxes. Keep the money concealed until you have reached your final destination. Be aware of anyone following you after you leave and if you feel like you are being followed, call 911 from your cellphone and drive toward a police station, if possible,” Bierden said.
Finally, Bierden explained how you can help the police if you become a victim.
- Do not try to be a hero and take no action that would jeopardize your safety.
- Follow the suspect’s directions but do not volunteer more than what he is asking for.
- Advise the suspect of any unusual moves you must take. Advise him that you will cooperate.
- Make mental notes. Pay attention to age, race, height, clothing, complexion, hair etc. Note anything unusual about the suspect such as scars and tattoos.
- Note the number of accomplices and how they left. Did they use a vehicle? Note the type, license plate, even partial plates and color and anything else on the vehicle that might stand out.
- Note the suspect’s hands. Note if he touches anything that might leave fingerprints.
Below are internet information portals for the public to follow regarding open cases and HPD requests for information from the public. They are:
- You Tube: Houston Police Robbery
- Facebook: @HoustonPoilce Robbery
- Twitter: @hpdrobbery
- Website: HoustonPoliceRobbery.org
- Nextdoor: Houston Police Department
The Kingwood PIP meets the third Tuesday of each month at 7 p.m., at the Kingwood Church of Christ. The meetings will be held in person unless current Houston COVID-19 policies change and Zoom teleconferences are resumed. The meeting is open to the public, contact the Kingwood HPD for more information.