How and why the FBI comes up with silly nicknames for Houston bank robbers

When the Chron team received an email about the “baby bib bandit” who robbed an armored car in Houston, we had a very important question: Who comes up with these names? We were so curious to know, we reached out to the Federal Bureau of Investigation directly to find out.

“The nicknaming is a process that’s a team effort,” an FBI spokesperson said. “We take a look at the picture of the subject and the details of the robbery, and we just try to come up with something catchy that we think the public will remember.”

The names — which can take anywhere from five minutes to an hour to come up with — are uniquely selected based on the characteristics such as physical features, clothing and disguises, and modus operandi.

For the baby bib bandit, the spokesperson said they took one look at the long, bib-like white object tied around his neck and knew exactly what to call him. “That one wasn’t very hard to come up with,” she said.

Before the baby bib bandit, there was the baby BLUE bandit, dressed in all blue track suit. The motormask mugger from this summer wore an M-1 motorcycle mask, which is “not something everyone has access to.” The justice league dropout, who the FBI was looking for just last week, was dressed in all grey and wore a cap with the Superman logo on it.

‘DON’T ROB BANKS KIDS’: The FBI’s creative nicknames for Houston’s wanted bank robbers

When asked where the line is drawn for certain names, the spokesperson said it’s usually based on the consensus of what the team thinks, but there isn’t really anything that’s off limits.

“We never want to do anything that’s going to be terribly offensive, so we are mindful of that when we’re naming them. But at the same time, it’s not based on something we think the bad guys are going to like,” she said.

The nicknames are proven be effective, because at the end of last year, the “rainy day robber” (who ended up being involved in robberies that the FBI hadn’t even connected him to) turned himself in partly because he didn’t like the nickname that was given to him in the press.

“Coming up with the names is probably one of the most fun parts of our work on the media team,” the spokesperson said. “It’s an opportunity to stretch our brains and get creative. If it helps someone remember a detail or motivates anyone to call and report one of these bank robberies or robbers, then it certainly makes our work that much more fulfilling.”

It’s a process that goes back pretty far, so there are no numerical statistics to back the success rate when compared to a time when nicknames weren’t given, but according to the FBI Violent Crimes Task Force, “through our investigators’ tried and true experience, we know a catchy name leads to more tips.”

If you have any information regarding any open bank robbery cases, you’re asked to contact the Crime Stoppers tip line at 713-222-TIPS(8477). You can receive a reward of up to $5,000 if your information leads to an arrest.


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