Wednesday's robbery of the Sovereign Bank branch in Forest Hill is one of a string of a dozen bank and post office robberies in Harford County dating back to last fall, most of which remain unsolved.

Though he suggests motives for the crimes may be changing, Harford County's top law enforcement officer says the number of robberies is on par with other years.

Sheriff Jesse Bane said the actual number of crimes belies the perception that there have been more bank robberies this year.

"The key word is 'seems,'" Bane said in an interview last week.

Bane's agency counted 18 commercial robberies – not just bank robberies – in the first nine months of this year. That doesn't include Wednesday's midday bank robbery, which Bane's spokesman said involved two men and was particularly brazen.

"The number is right on track to be about the same," Bane said. "We are right on track to be very close to what we had last year."

Based on prior reports from law enforcement agencies that cover the area, however, Wednesday's robbery makes at least 10 robberies of banks and post offices in Harford since October 2012 for which no arrests have been made.

One factor that may be different in the most recent holdups is the motivation, Bane said.

While most robberies in years past seemed to be committed by people feeding their substance addictions, the Sheriff's Office has made a couple of arrests in which the suspects explained they robbed a bank or convenience store because they were trying to provide for their families.

"Addiction was a common denominator, but lately, the reason they give us is they need to put food on the table," Bane said.

Arrests have been made in six of the non-bank commercial robberies so far this year. According to Bane, two of those suspects told deputies they have to put food on the table for their families, while the other four were addiction-related.

"It's the economy," Bane said. "It seems to be catching up with us."

Tricky investigations

The unsolved bank and post office robberies have all occurred in the generally violence-free areas around Bel Air and Fallston.

Bane and other law enforcement officials in Harford say one thing that makes these investigations trickier is the sheer number of law enforcement agencies working in Harford County, as well as outside agencies that can get involved on occasion, such as the U.S. Postal Service and the FBI.

The current investigations are spread among the Sheriff's Office, Maryland State, Bel Air Police Department and the Postal Service.

An arrest has been made in two of this year's bank robberies. The "I-55 bandit," as he was dubbed by the FBI, is believed to have robbed two banks in Bel Air, other banks in Maryland and several banks in other states.

The 19-year-old suspect surrendered earlier this month, just days after surveillance photos from a dozen bank jobs were put out nationwide on news websites, television and other media. The banks robbed in Bel Air were the Harford Bank branch on South Main Street on June 5 and the Wells Fargo Bank branch in Tollgate Plaza.

No such breaks have occurred for those investigating the other holdups, even though police have been able to release clear surveillance photos of many of the robbers, at least until Wednesday's holdup, where the two robbers wore full facial masks and were heavily clothed.

But having stills from video footage that capture the robbers' images does not necessarily mean the crimes will be easier to solve, Maj. Doug Verzi, of the Sheriff's Office, said.