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Aftermath of a Bank of America robbery. The dye pack exploded and the stack of 20s were abandoned on the sidewalk.

Bank robbery is the crime of stealing from a bank. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Uniform Crime Reporting Program, robbery is "the taking or attempting to take anything of value from the care, custody, or control of a person or persons by force or threat of force or violence and/or by putting the victim in fear."[1] By contrast, burglary is defined as, "unlawful entry of a structure to commit a felony or theft."[2] In layman's terms, therefore, bank robbery is entering a bank when it is open and either by using force or the threat of force or otherwise obtaining valuables, usually money. Entering a bank when it is closed is burglary.

Bank robbery is a predominantly urban crime, taking place most frequently in cities and large towns. The share of bank robberies in small towns increased from about 20% in 1996 to about one third in 2002[citation needed], but the majority of bank robberies are concentrated in urban areas. This concentration is often attributed to there being more branches in urban areas, but the number of bank robberies is disproportionately higher than the number of branches. In Canada, for example, seven cities have 30 percent of all bank branches but 66 percent of all bank robberies; in the United Kingdom, London has 10 percent of the nation's branches but 39 percent of its bank robberies.

This has advantages both for bank robbers and for the law enforcement community. Being in urban areas the transportation infrastructure is more highly developed, especially where banks tend to cluster near to retail shopping areas and commercial districts. Such banks are highly profitable targets for bank robbers who are then afforded a number of potential escape routes. The law enforcement community benefit by being able to respond more quickly and the likelihood of catching a bank robber on or near the scene is higher than for other types of crime. This is because most bank robberies are reported very quickly, frequently while the crime is in progress, most bank robberies occur during daylight hours, have multiple witnesses and with modern technology often produce photographic images that can be distributed and used immediately to canvass the local area. Consequently, many robbers are caught the same day. In fact, the clearance rate for bank robbery is among the highest of all crimes, almost 60 percent.

The urban location of the crime also contributes to its repeat victimization profile, a measure of how quickly a crime victim will suffer a repeat of the original crime. One study carried out by the Home Office found that in England, one third of banks at which a robbery has occurred will be robbed again within three months, while the same study found that in Tallahassee, Florida, one quarter of robbed banks will suffer repeat robbery within a week, and over half of robbed banks will be robbed again within a month.[3]

The Australian Institute of Criminology analyzed trends in bank robbery over a four year period. Of the 808 bank robbery incidents between January 1998 and May 2002 in which the number of offenders involved in the hold-up was recorded, more than half (55 percent) were committed by lone offenders, about 25 percent by pairs, and around 20 percent by three or more robbers. Unarmed lone offenders accounted for the majority of all robberies (28 percent of all robberies), caused the least number of injuries to victims (one percent of all victims' injuries), were the type of robber who most often used a note to threaten bank staff (46 percent of all their robberies), and failed most often in their robbery attempts (33 percent of their robberies). Unarmed gangs inflicted the most injuries to victims (51 percent of all victim injuries) and failed the least in their robbery attempts (six percent of their robberies). Armed robbers used a disguise more often compared to unarmed robbers, with armed pairs employing disguises most often (59 percent of their robberies).[4]

According to the Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics injuries occur in about two percent and a death occurs in less than 1% of all US bank robberies.[5][6]

Violent takeover type bank robberies do occur, but are very rare. The majority of bank robberies taking place today are so called "note jobs." These are usually accomplished by simply passing a written note to the teller demanding money. The idea is to attract as little attention as possible. In most cases, other customers present in the bank during such a robbery are completely unaware of what is occurring. Standard bank policy is to avoid violence as much as possible, so they will normally hand over the money and try to adhere to the robber's demands. The robber usually makes away with cash, but typically in relatively small amounts.

Contents

History

Burglars Tools Found in the Bank, printed in 1875 in the Canadian Illustrated News

According to the Independence Hall Association in Philadelphia, the first bank robbery in America happened during the night of August 31 or the early morning of September 1, 1798 at the Bank of Pennsylvania at Carpenters' Hall. The vaults were apparently robbed of $162,821, or approximately $1.8 million in 2006 dollars. Because no forced entry evidence existed, authorities assumed it was an "inside" job. Several suspects were immediately imprisoned and prosecuted, but the culprits eventually charged were a man, Isaac Davis, and a partner. Within days of the heist, Davis' partner fell victim to a plague of yellow fever that ravaged Philadelphia that summer.

During the American Civil War, raiders from both Union and Confederate armies robbed banks in enemy-controlled towns. These robberies were at the time regarded as legitimate acts of war, but many of the raiders carried on robbing banks in the post-war era, giving rise to the famous robber gangs of the late 19th century.[citation needed]

Historical Bank Robbers

Jesse James was one of the most popular and praised bank robbers of USA.

In the early twentieth century Willie Sutton was asked why he robbed banks and he was famously reported as answering: "Because that's where the money is." This is, in fact, a quote invented by the interviewer to make the story more interesting.[7]

John Dillinger was another famous bank robber, who robbed banks in mid-western America. Some considered him a dangerous criminal, while others idolized him as a supposed present-day Robin Hood. He gained this latter reputation (and the nickname "Jackrabbit") for his graceful movements during bank heists, such as leaping over the counter (a movement he supposedly copied from the movies) and many narrow getaways from police. On July 22, 1934 in Chicago, Illinois, Dillinger was cornered by FBI agents in an alley outside of a movie theater, and was shot by a pistol while walking outside. He died at that location of gunshot wounds.

Prevention

Banks have implemented modern security measures, like motion-sensing and high resolution color security cameras, time-locked heavy vault doors, silent alarms, exploding dye packs, bait money and locator devices. Some banks supplement this protection with armed or unarmed security guards. [8]

Gone are the days when expert safe crackers could crack the code to a vault or safe. Today's biometric technology makes non-violent methods of gaining access nearly impossible. Modern vaults and safes are also reinforced to the point that the amount of explosives needed to blow them open would likely create unwanted attention and run the risk of harming the building to the point of collapse. Even the most impregnable vault or safe needs to be able to be opened by someone. To circumvent vault and safe security features, robbers often kidnap the bank manager, but that is not always a successful workaround as banks have often removed the manager's ability to open the vault. Kidnapping also enables the police or federal law enforcement to lay more charges and thus more jail or prison time for the robbers should they get caught.

The police have new measures at their disposal to catch bank robbers, such as well-armed SWAT teams, and pursuit cars (often a high-powered vehicle) driven by a trained driver that is capable of keeping pace with getaway cars. Forensic identification techniques have also improved greatly; should a bank robber fire a gun, the police can trace the bullet to the exact firearm using ballistic fingerprinting. Martin Kemp, in a BBC documentary, once inquired on the effectiveness of an Uzi in a bank robbery, to which the firearms training instructor joked "that would be sixty four pieces of evidence to convict you." The sawed-off shotgun, a common robbery weapon in United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand where handguns are difficult to obtain, are easily concealable but not particularly effective.

While it is likely but not certain that the first time someone robs a bank they will not be caught, it is highly likely that if they continue they will be caught. Few criminals are able to make a successful living out of bank robbery over the long run, since each attempt increases the probability that they will be identified and caught. Bank robberies are still fairly common and are indeed successful, although eventually many bank robbers are found and arrested. A report by the Federal Bureau of Investigation[9] states that, among Category I serious crimes, the arrest rate for bank robbery in 2001 was second only to that of murder. Today most organized crime groups tend to make their money by other means, such as drug trafficking, gambling, loan sharking, identity theft, or online scamming and phishing.

A further factor making bank robbery unattractive for criminals in the United States is the severity with which it is prosecuted. Accounts at all US banks are insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, a corporation of the federal government, bringing bank robbery under federal jurisdiction and involving the FBI. United States Federal Sentencing Guidelines for bank robbery mandate long prison terms, which are usually further enhanced by the use or carrying of loaded firearms, prior criminal convictions, and the absence of parole from the federal prison system. As with any type of robbery, the fact that bank robbery is also inherently a violent crime typically causes corrections administrators to place imprisoned bank robbers in harsher high-security institutions.

See also

References

  1. ^ FBI definition of Bank Robbery
  2. ^ FBI definition of Burglary
  3. ^ Home Office study, United Kingdom Home Office
  4. ^ Australian Institute of Criminology
  5. ^ Pastore, Ann L. and Kathleen Maguire, eds.: Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics, Table 3.151.2008
  6. ^ Pastore, Ann L. and Kathleen Maguire, eds.: Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics, Table 3.149.2008
  7. ^ Willie Sutton
  8. ^ Design of a GPS/GSM currency tracker device
  9. ^ Bank Robbery in the United States

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