Crimewatch: Public data base created to help catch serial robber - MyFoxAustin.com | KTBC Fox 7 | News, Weather, Sports

Crimewatch: Public data base created to help catch serial robbers

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Central Texas robbery detectives got fed up with criminals hopping from business to business, stealing money and getting away with it. They created a public database to empower the victims and better connect detectives. It's called R.I.O.T., or Robbery Investigators of Texas.

He shows a gun and apologetically asks for cash. The so-called "I'm sorry" robber is the latest serial offender in Austin. His target is convenience stores and since November, he's hit eight.

Nothing makes Detective Shawn Scott of the Round Rock Police Department more frustrated.

In 2011, Scott and other officers on the F.B.I. Central Texas Violent Crimes Taskforce were tracking--now convicted robber--Mark Donaldson.

"[Donaldson] wrote his demand on a piece of paper, passed it to the teller and that's how he operated," said Scott. "For five years he hit close to 25 financial institutions across the U.S. lastly coming to Texas."

After striking four banks in Austin, Donaldson was arrested.

"The primary reason mark was able to fly under the radar was because he bounced around like they all do," said Scott. "The Mark Donaldson story is kind of a great example of why we want to network, why we think it's so important to network so we can prevent these serial bank robbers."

Scott helped create Robbery Investigators of Texas. It's a non-profit, for the victims.

"Banks, credit unions, jewelry stores, pharmacies," Scott listed.

To view the R.I.O.T. website click here: http://robberyinvestigatorsoftexas.org/

With a membership, businesses can immediately post photos, videos and a description of the robber. They can also chat directly with detectives throughout the state.

"Not having to wait on police. Not having to depend on anybody else to do it for them," said Scott.

While they're on the R.I.O.T. website, they can look through a database of wanted robbers to see if their robber has hit someone else. Let's say the robber is Hispanic. We'll also select male. And he's really tall. We're down to one: a guy who hit Queens, New York in 2011.

The site also shows offenders on an interactive map.

The Texas Bankers Association is a member of R.I.O.T.

"We have a mutual interest in catching those guys," said spokesperson Donny Palmer.

Palmer knows what it's like to be in the shoes of a bank employee.

"It's a pretty scary feeling to know that at any time you could be robbed," Palmer said.

He says R.I.O.T. has been a helpful resource.

"I think especially for the smaller banks, they're able to contact the officers in the different parts of the state if they need to," said Palmer. "It empowers them. It gives them the ability to post it on our website."

Information moving at the pace of a serial robber. Scott hopes his vision will soon be putting robbers behind bars.

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