Credit: The Conversation, CC-BY-ND Source: FBI

Bank robbery is a high-profile crime that fascinates many people.

Such films were made about famous bank robbers Bonnie and Clyde, JohnDillinger and Butch Cassidy. There is even a new one the Gilbert Galvan movie that just came outCanada’s most prolific bank robber, robbing 59 banks in five years.

It may surprise you, like me, to learn that the number of bank robberies is the lowest it has been in half a century.

That’s what I am revealed while researching a book about the transition to a cashless economy. Since people use less money, I would expect fewer bank robberies. But I was surprised to see that the downward trend started long before cashless economy began to emerge in the 2000s.

“Bling Ring” and “Ninja”

Movies often show bank robberies as elaborate plots planned by clever scammers. However, this is not true. Most bank robberies are committed by people who simply walk in and demand money from the teller.

In 2021, about 85% of banking crimes were committed at cash registers. The vast majority of thieves either handed the note to the cashier or demanded it verbally. Very few incidents involve break-ins, where a thief enters a bank after hours, or theft, where money is stolen without directly confronting employees.

More than half of all cases involved brandishing or threatening to use a weapon. This leads to many bank robberies becoming traumatic and dangerous events for employees and customers of the bank. Since 1999 15 people died in bank robberies, 94 were injured and 62 were taken hostage.

Law enforcement perpetuates the mystique bank robbery giving many outlaws interesting nicknames, as can be seen from FBI site dedicated to only them.

For example, the FBI is offering $2,000 for information leading to an arrest.”Bling Ring Bandit” who stole an unknown amount from a bank in Albuquerque, New Mexico while wearing a large gold ring on his right little finger. My favorite “Ninja bank robber“, who was all black from head to toe in April 2022 robbery.

Since there are different types of bank robberies, there are a variety of prison terms for those caught. Robbers using force or violence receive a maximum sentence of 20 years. Causing damage during a bank robbery, the maximum sentence increases to 25 years. Kill someone and face death or life imprisonment.

Burglars who do not use weapons have less time. Bank robbery of more than $1,000 without the use of force is punishable by up to 10 years. Theft of less than $1,000 without coercion carries a maximum sentence of only one year.

Bank robberies are going out of style

The The FBI tracks bank robberies and other crimes in the US since the 1930s. Unfortunately, the first data were based only on voluntary reports from police chiefs in very large cities. And there were early data not standardized across multiple offenseslike bank robbers who stole a getaway car.

This resulted in very low numbers, for example in 1948 there were only 53 bank robberies. Better data on bank robberies began around 1970, when the FBI Uniform crime reports just over 2,000 are reported.

The number of bank robberies in the United States peaked in 1991, when 9,388 were committed. The number has declined significantly since then. By 2021, it was just 1,724 after hitting a 51-year low of 1,500 in 2020.

A less lucrative career

One of the possible reasons for downward trend it could be that the penalties were increased, thus acting as a deterrent and persuading would-be bank robbers to find other work. However, this reason does not hold up because the evidence shows that judges hand down shorter rather than longer sentences. A 2021 analysis found that the typical bank robber, most of whom used a gun, was headed for imprisonment for less than seven years. A mid-1980s the study found that the average sentence was 10 years when no weapon was used and 15 when a weapon was used.

Another explanation could be that there are fewer banks to rob. After a peak of 85,000 in 2009, the number of bank branches in the US decreased to slightly more than 72 thousand.

More compelling reason to me it’s bank robbery become much less profitable— In any case, adjusted for inflation. A typical robber earned about $5,200 in the late 1960s. That’s over $38,000 in 2019. But in 2019 the average was just $4,200. How A 2007 British study on the subject noted, “Profits from a routine bank robbery are, frankly, bullshit.”

As it turns out, cyber theft is much more profitable, with even smaller fines. A government report found that in 2016, convicted credit card violators received more than 60,000 dollars on average, they got prison a sentence just a little over two years.

Willie Sutton was a notorious bank robber in the United States in the 1920s and 1930s. When asked why he robbed banks, Sutton allegedly answered, “Because there’s money there.” While this may have been true in Satan’s time, it may not be true today.

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