Arrest ends string of heists

Police say the man admits robbing four banks this year.

By ABHI RAGHUNATHAN, Times Staff Writer
Published February 8, 2008

ST. PETERSBURG - Douglas Charles Smith first tried to rob a bank on Jan. 7, police say, just three days after he got out of jail.

But he got nervous as he approached the teller, and left saying he had forgotten his ID.

Later that day, police say Smith, 47, robbed another bank. Then, they say, he went on to rob five more in the past month, making him one of the Tampa Bay area's most prolific bank robbers.

Smith's lucrative new career came to an end Thursday morning when he was arrested shortly after a robbery at the Bank of St. Petersburg at 777 Pasadena Ave. S, police said.

For the past few weeks, undercover detectives have staked out banks in the western part of the city where they thought Smith might hit. It was the area he seemed to favor.

On Thursday morning, a detective saw Smith walk into the bank wearing a hoodie and a cloth over his face. Police spokesman Bill Proffitt said the detective called for backup.

Within a minute, police say Smith ran out of the bank, got into a tan and cranberry 1998 Chrysler Sebring, and drove away, Proffitt said. Police followed, arresting him without incident at 15th Avenue N and 58th Street by pulling him out of his car window.

Police believe Smith robbed seven banks, including one in Pinellas Park and another in Lakeland. However, he currently faces four charges of bank robbery. He may face additional charges, including federal charges.

Proffitt said Smith told officers that he was addicted to powder and crack cocaine. He also said he had recently run up about $20,000 in various legal costs.

Smith admitted robbing four banks, but said he couldn't remember others, Proffitt said.

"He was very cooperative," Proffitt said.

As he kept robbing banks, Smith grew bolder. He often intimated that he had a gun by sticking a finger in a pocket, though police didn't find a gun on him when he was arrested Thursday.

Also, Smith began demanding money from tellers, saying: "Open your drawer and give me all your $50 and $100 bills."

Smith lived most recently in an apartment in St. Pete Beach. He has a long criminal record that includes many arrests on drug-related charges.

Police seized Smith's 1998 sedan. He had purchased it two days ago for $2,000.

Times researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Abhi Raghunathan can be reached at araghunathan@sptimes.com or 727 893-8472.