Normally, when South Portland Police Detective Sgt. Steve Webster sends out pictures of a criminal suspect, he’s flooded with calls the next day.

So when he sent out images of a woman who robbed a bank near the Maine Mall on Thursday, he expected his phone to be ringing nonstop on Friday.

It didn’t.

“I don’t think we’ve had one call,” Webster said. “That’s pretty unusual.”

Police believe a woman in her early to mid-20s entered the TD Bank on Maine Mall Road at around 7 p.m. She didn’t produce a weapon but implied that she had one, according to police. She left with an undisclosed amount of cash.

Bank employees told police that the woman left the bank and got into the passenger side of a white SUV parked nearby. According to security images, the woman was last seen wearing a gray hooded GAP sweatshirt and a dark New York Yankees baseball cap.

“Her picture has been out there quite a bit, so the fact that we haven’t had any tips leads me to believe that she may not be from around here,” Webster said. “We’ve sent photos to agencies in nearby states. At this point, there’s not much we can do unless someone helps identify her, except pray she doesn’t do it again.”

Bank robberies involving female suspects are occurring more frequently in recent years but are still rare. Of the more than 6,000 known suspects in U.S. bank robberies in 2011, fewer than 500 were women, or about 1 in 12, according to the FBI. That number has increased gradually over the last decade. In 2002, only about 1 in 20 bank robberies were committed by women.

Maine ranks among states with the lowest rate of bank robberies, usually logging fewer than a dozen each year. In 2010, there were 11 reported robberies. In 2011, there were only three. The FBI data did not provide a breakdown of suspects’ sex by state, so it’s not clear how many bank robberies in Maine have been committed by women.

Donald Clark with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Maine, which prosecutes all federal crimes, including bank robberies, said he hasn’t noticed an increasing trend of female bank robbers in this state.

Webster said South Portland police have responded to several bank robberies over the last few years, but he couldn’t remember another case involving a woman.

There have been a handful of Maine cases recently, though.

Last month, Roxanne Esty, 36, of Gorham, was charged with robbing a bank in Conway, N.H.. She also is suspected of robbing the Kennebunk Savings Bank in York on May 29.

In February, a man and a woman from Westbrook were caught after they robbed a bank in Lewiston. Paul Sans, 29, and Maria Mattson, 30, are suspected in other heists, including a bank robbery in Windham.

In July 2010, a Bangor woman surrendered to police shortly after she robbed a bank downtown and fled in a waiting taxi. Matisha Pitts, 26, was sentenced early last year to four years in prison.

In May 2010, a woman robbed a bank in Portland and fled in car. She wore a hooded sweatshirt and sweatpants. That robbery was not solved.

In April 2010, a 22-year-old York woman was arrested in connection with a string of bank robberies. Bethany Colson, 22, was one of four suspects suspected of robbing banks in southern New Hampshire but was the only female involved.

South Portland police ask anyone with information on the woman involved in Thursday’s bank robbery to contact Detective Chris Todd at 799-5511, extension 7448.

 

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