Back in the day, if you wanted to catch a bank robber, you had to put together a posse, call in Melvin Purvis, or hire a woman in a red dress: the stuff of glamour and drama. But these days not even vigilante justice is safe from the long, dull arm of Silicon Valley. On Friday, the FBI released a mobile app for iOS and Android called Bank Robbers. It promises to be the Uber of bank robbery investigations, at least in the sense that it seems kind of unsafe and it doesn’t pay.
The app is a mobile version of the FBI’s bank robbers website, which provides a database of wanted bank robbers, complete with the locations of their crimes, photos, and videos, if any, information about rewards, and wanted posters. It’s searchable and can sort the complete list of the FBI’s wanted bank robbers by category, date of most recent robbery, FBI field office, or state. It even allows push notifications to let you know about “FBI bank robber activity near you,” in case you’re Batman and want to rush into action whenever a bank is robbed. Although, to be honest, something seems to be wrong with either the search function or the database:
Weirdest of all, however, is the geolocation feature, which gives you a handy map of all bank robbers operating near you, with pins showing their security camera footage. There didn’t seem to be any data near Los Angeles—which I’m guessing is an error, since I’m pretty sure the city’s not unusually law-abiding—so here are some of the hipster robbers of Portland, Oregon:
Clicking on a tag takes you to details about the robber and their FBI Wanted Poster:
So essentially it’s Pokémon Go, except with armed and dangerous outlaws. Currently, the app provides tools to call a field office or report a tip online, rather than encouraging users to track down the robbers themselves, but it seems like a good bet that this will change once the app’s developers tell the FBI about our wonderful new gig economy. In the meantime, the app serves up data that would also be pretty useful for a bank robber to leverage: which nearby banks have been robbed and when. Willie Sutton had to guess where the money was, but millennial bank robbers can just check their phones and know for sure. So congratulations to everyone involved for another great disruptive technology, and best of luck in the brave new world of well-informed bank robbers and freelance police.