Factors contributing to bank robberies can largely be explained by three factors.
- More bank outlets and extended hours increase opportunities for robberies.
- Banks remain the most lucrative of all robbery targets; moreover, 80 percent of stolen money is never recovered.
- Bank robberies are usually fast, low risk crimes, because employees are trained to comply with a robber’s demands. Moreover, although the risk of arrest is high, much of this risk is short term, and risk – as reflected by clearances – has declined over time.
Much of the growth in the number of bank outlets is attributable to the explosion of mini-branches—also known as in-store branches—in retail grocery stores and big-box retailers such as Wal-Mart. The increase in in-store branches is predominately an urban phenomenon. In-store branches less expensive to open and to operate than traditional branches, and banks can capitalize on exclusive agreements with particular retailers to rapidly increase the number of outlets. Because profit underlies bank expansion efforts, the number of branches within any jurisdiction can substantially expand or contract over time.
Once well-known for “banker’s hours”—referring to a short working day— many branches now have extended operating hours. To attract customers, virtually all in-store branches remain open into the evening hours during the week, operate a full day on Saturday, and may offer Sunday hours as well. The increase in operating hours effectively increases bank exposure to robbery by at least 25 percent. As banks have become more convenient for their customers, they have also become more convenient for robbers.
Although many banks limit the amount of cash on hand and control access to it within the branch, banks nevertheless remain a source of easy cash for robbers. In fact, banks are the most lucrative commercial robbery targets. In the United Kingdom, banks suffer the highest average losses from armed robberies. In the United States, bank robbers net just over $4,000 per robbery; this represents about 60 percent of financial losses from commercial robberies, despite the fact that bank robberies comprise less than 10 percent of the total for this crime type.
Although the average take hardly seems worth the punishment, interviews indicate that most robbers would be satisfied with much less. In addition, although many bank robbers are eventually apprehended, the stolen money usually is not: only 20 percent of money taken in bank robberies is ever recovered.
For a robber, there are three main reasons why bank branches may be considered predictable and relatively low-risk targets.
- Branches have standardized designs and predictable layouts and operations.
- Bank employees are unarmed and consistently compliant. Even robbery transactions are handled quickly and efficiently.
- Employee characteristics affect a robber’s perception of compliance; tellers are often young and predominantly female, whereas robbers are predominantly male.
Banks have highly uniform business practices and interior designs. Branches have a predictable physical footprint that features a centralized entry and a group of chest-high teller windows arrayed in close proximity to the entrance. Although such uniformity may help customers feel comfortable banking in any branch, it also provides great predictability for robbers.
During a robbery, bank practices are highly standardized; consequently, robbers know that they can count on compliant victims. Most banks—consistent with police advice—direct employees to comply quickly with robbers’ demands. Tellers willingly empty their cash drawers when presented with a simple robbery demand note, whether or not violence is threatened or a weapon is displayed. The bank’s primary objective is to protect the safety and security of its employees and customers by reducing the likelihood of violence. Consequently, the risk that a robber will encounter resistance is extremely low.
Bank employees are so compliant that the robbery itself is a quick and efficient transaction; more than two-thirds of bank robberies are completed in three minutes or less. Robbers often wait in the teller’s line with legitimate customers and pass a demand note to the teller. In many robberies, the event is handled so discreetly that other customers and even other employees are not even aware that a crime has occurred until after the robber has left the premises.
Bank robbers are predators that rely on their ability to stalk, and ambush your employees and patrons. It is crucial to deny these ambush attackers access to your employees and patrons; the opportunities to stalk them, and to cause them harm.
Call today. Isotec Safety Entrances can protect your employees and patrons. 303.800.3344