Bank Robbers Going the Way of Blacksmiths?

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Hulton Archive / Getty Images

Portrait of American bank robbers and lovers Clyde Barrow (1909 - 1934) and Bonnie Parker (1911 -1934), popularly known as Bonnie and Clyde, circa 1933.

Perhaps there really is no such thing as easy money. Based on declining bank robbery statistics, criminals seem to be realizing that it’s hard to make a living by following in the footsteps of Bonnie and Clyde.

In 2009, there were no fewer than 22 bank robberies in a trio of counties centered on Augusta, Georgia. “It felt like we were the bank robbery capital of the world that year,” Capt. Troy Elwell, of the Aiken County Sheriff’s department, recently told the Augusta Chronicle.

Last year, however, there were “just” eight bank robberies reported in the same area. In fact, the paper noted, the number of bank robberies around the country has been falling steadily for years:

According to the FBI, bank holdups have dropped nearly every year since 2003, when nearly 7,500 robberies were reported nationwide with $77 million taken. In 2011 – the last complete year for data – about 5,000 banks reported robberies with $38 million stolen.

The trend continued into 2012 with an especially sharp decline in bank heists, reports the Wall Street Journal. Nationwide, there were 3,870 bank robberies last year, according to preliminary data from the FBI. That’s roughly half the number reported in 2004, and a far cry from the high hit in 1991 of nearly 9,400 bank robberies in the U.S.

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Why are criminals losing their taste for the old-fashioned bank stickup? As the WSJ story explains, better bank security and investigative techniques, as well as tougher sentencing for those getting caught, appear to play roles. Perhaps more importantly, though, bank robbers seem to be keeping up with the times by shifting to the electronic world, paralleling how banks have been replacing tellers with ATMs and digital transactions. While the number of traditional bank robberies has declined, crimes involving ATMs and online scams have soared.

“Clearly, as more and more transactions become electronic, more bank crimes become electronic,” Doug Johnson, an American Bankers Association vice president, told the Journal.

Interestingly, the age-old adage about why bank robbers rob banks—that’s where the money is—can now be used as an explanation for why criminals are increasingly turning to the Internet. Today, the cyber world is where the real money is. Going the electronic route is obviously less violent and dangerous, for criminal and victim alike, since no guns are involved.

(MORE: Thinking About Robbing a Bank? Read This First)

Still considering pulling off a bank job, with guns a-blazing? A group of British economists actually ran the numbers on bank robbery hauls and published a study last summer indicating that robbing physical banks is an absurdly high-risk, surprisingly low-payoff endeavor. “As a profitable occupation, bank robbery leaves a lot to be desired,” the study’s authors wrote.

8 comments
CC88
CC88

I think you may mean, 'county'..."In fact, the paper noted, the number of bank robberies around the country has been falling steadily for years"

JaneSmith
JaneSmith

The article says ". . . robbing physical banks is an absurdly high-risk, surprisingly low-payoff endeavor."


They lie!


The best way to rob a bank . . . is to own one!

JamezePurplebudKell
JamezePurplebudKell

Thats kind of hard to justify when we had a string of bank robberies a little over a month ago. Three of the bank robbery suspects are still at large so i dont think its fading away but you dont hear much about it because they are to embarrassed to say they were robbed. I live in Los Angeles and in the last week i have heard about atleast 2 bank robberies. i guess it all depends on where you live. if your in a hick town then maybe it has not happen recently but if you live in a big city bank robberies still happen more then you think.

bobpitt
bobpitt

You teach Journalism? Man !!! they have very low standards anymore.. 

bobpitt
bobpitt

Brad Tuttle is either misinformed, or he just wrote something so he can tell his boss he has been working..

Brad, Bank robbers are more active than ever, and they much smarter than you, they don't have to be physically at the bank to rob it. They use a new invention that dates back from the 1960s, is called INTERNET..!!

and next time write something interesting, not the garbage you posted..

grousefeather
grousefeather

These days the bank robbers are inside the banks because they work for the banks.

hrpuckinfutz
hrpuckinfutz

Bank robbers are not going extinct.  You can find them on the board of any large bank in America!

isaacaeder
isaacaeder

@bobpitt  

 The story covered that... seriously, before you unload your bile actually read the story instead of just the headline.