AUSTIN (KXAN) — Police investigating a rise in local “jugging” cases said they needed faster, easier access to the surveillance footage at banks to help make more arrests and catch suspects.

Sgt. Jennifer Taylor with the Austin Police Department’s robbery unit said Thursday that officers are getting more robbery cases of jugging recently. Those incidents involve suspects following someone from a bank or ATM and then stealing money by either showing a weapon or assaulting the victim. Some jugging cases, though, are considered burglaries by police because suspects break into a victim’s car instead to steal money left inside.

Over the last year, police said they took in reports of 62 jugging cases, but Taylor said there have been few arrests in that time. She explained that’s because of the way groups of suspects carry out these crimes as well as the delay in reviewing security cameras to create leads.

“A lot of the times, they’ll come in and rent a car. They’ll steal a car. They’ll come in for the day, makes them less trackable in a car that doesn’t belong to them,” Taylor said. “And they’ll commit several juggings throughout the day.”

Taylor said officers often run into hurdles with accessing surveillance footage from financial institutions because of the security systems and legal checks needed on the businesses’ end. That process can last anywhere from three to seven days, she said.

“We want to work hand in hand together to be able to obtain some of those videos,” Taylor said, “so we can get plates and descriptions and clothing descriptions and all of that so that we can get leads on these faster.”

Officers spoke Wednesday night to an Austin business owner who lost thousands in an apparent jugging case. Someone broke into James Goldsworth’s truck on June 8 when he stopped at a barbecue restaurant after he carried out boxes of change from a Chase bank branch nearby in north Austin. He suspected someone watched him there and then followed him until he stopped somewhere and left his vehicle. He said the suspects stole cash, electronics and other belongings worth a total of $8,000.

“It’s just a horrible situation,” Goldsworth said. “Yeah, you definitely have a feeling of [being] violated.”

KXAN reached out Thursday to ask Chase about this particular case and what the bank’s review process involves to release surveillance footage to police. A spokesperson sent the following statement in an email: “Any time we are contacted by police, we work as quickly as possible to help them with their investigation. Our security team works closely with law-enforcement agencies across the state, sharing incident and suspect information.  We will follow up with the Austin police about this unfortunate case.”

The Texas Bankers Association started sending out materials to its more than 400 member banks last June when it began hearing about an increase in jugging reports in the state. The information the association shared included ways for banks to keep customers safe, like advising them to conceal bank bags or envelopes whenever they walk outside.

Taylor said the police department is also working to develop contacts at major banks who can help speed up the process of accessing security camera footage.

Ways to avoid becoming a jugging victim

Austin police suggested the following ways to avoid becoming a “jugging” victim:

  • Take note of anyone that is hanging around in the lobby of the bank or parking lot that does not appear immediately occupied.
  • Try not to be distracted while in the financial institution: on your phone, wearing earbuds, etc.
  • Notice any vehicles that may follow you out of the parking lot and make sure you are not being followed.
  • Before leaving the counter/ATM after receiving cash, secure it in a different bag (other than the small zipper cash bags or envelopes utilized), such as a briefcase or purse.
  • Lock your car doors when you get into your vehicle.
  • If you believe you are being followed from a financial institution for any length, please call 911 or drive to the nearest police station, fire/EMS station.
  • Speak with security at your bank to see if they can assist you with large withdrawals or if they have any safety suggestions when withdrawing a large amount of cash.