Bank robberies in New Jersey are trending downward.

Brad Cohen, assistant special agent in charge of the FBI in Newark, said in the division's territory there have been 18 robberies this year, compared to a total of 54 all of last year.

In 2016, 102 banks were robbed in New Jersey.

“We have about a 47 percent drop in bank robberies, and who do we attribute that to? The citizens that are out there that see these people and identify them and call into law enforcement.”

He said of the 18 robberies committed this year, 14 have been solved.

Cohen believes the “bandit barrier,” a clear bulletproof plexiglass that’s becoming increasingly popular in banks, is one reason why we’re seeing a decrease.

Another reason for the drop is the smart phone.

“There are so many people now out there with cell phones," he said. "Everybody has some type of digital media now so they’re an excellent witness.”

He said every bank that’s robbed is investigated by the FBI.

“As a result of that, we have statistical information pertaining to when banks are robbed, the time of day, the time of month, down to clothing features that these robbers wear,” said Cohen.

“We share that information with the banks so they can obviously get better at combating those criminal elements and present more of a deterrent when they enter the banks.”

So who’s robbing banks these days?

Special agent Cohen says some people are desperate for money to buy drugs, but in other cases “it could be your next door neighbor — so it’s not just somebody of low socio-economical challenges. It could be anybody these days.”

If you’re in a bank and suddenly someone pulls out a gun to commit a robbery, what should you do?

“Even if you do have a concealed weapons permit or a concealed carry permit, don’t be a hero — be a good witness.”

Even if you have a smart phone handy, “you don’t want to get yourself into a situation of bringing out your cell phone and taking pictures. If there’s an opportunity to do so you can. But again, don’t be the hero; just be a good witness.”

Cohen said the FBI still puts up wanted posters of bank robbers in post offices, billboards and at

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