HOUSTON (AP) — In the wake of 11 armored-car robberies in Houston, one transportation company wants the public and criminals to know its guards are armed and on the lookout for trouble.
A spokesman for armored car company GardaWorld told the Houston Chronicle (http://bit.ly/1iXke9r ) that it had added as many as three guards to some trucks, instituted tactical-weapons training for some guards and added a second crew to some convoys.
Those moves come as Houston deals with a spike in armored-car robberies. With a few weeks to go this year, Houston has seen almost four times as many such robberies as last year.
"It's gotten pretty serious in Houston," said Robert Hatchett, the GardaWorld spokesman. "The violence is escalating. Criminals are no longer asking for the money; they're brandishing weapons and opening fire."
FBI spokeswoman Shauna Dunlap said authorities have made arrests in two robberies this year. In one, authorities say a gunman with a semi-automatic pistol fired at two guards restocking an ATM in Humble. The gunman hit one of the guards eight times. That guard remains at home recovering from his injuries, Hatchett said.
Armored cars travel between banks, stores and ATMs.
"Eleven is unusually high, but the level of the violence — which is a danger to the community — is also high, which is why we're taking this so seriously," said Mark Michalek, the special agent leading the FBI's bank robbery task force.
GardaWorld's trucks have been targeted four of the 11 times, the company said.
Hatchett said the company wants the public to know about its level of concern — to the point that it discourages people from holding open doors for guards or making conversation with them. Guards sometimes worry that someone holding a door could move to block the guard in a robbery, Hatchett said.
"We're friendly in Texas and we open doors for others, but that can be seen as a threat," he said.
In the event of a robbery, Hatchett asked any potential good Samaritans to flee the scene, not try to help, even if they are legally carrying a handgun.
Information from: Houston Chronicle, http://www.houstonchronicle.com