Act Of Stealing From Banks Criminology Essay

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The act of stealing from banks while subjecting the people to force and violent gestures is termed as the crime of bank robbery. The bank robbery that took place in the year 1866 at Clay County Savings Association in Liberty, when several members of a gang shot a 19 year old boy and took off with $60,000, is still remembered as the first robbery in USA. There were some acts that are said to be the bank robberies before this robbery but the methods and reasons haven't been confirmed as yet.

Over the time period the robberies in the US have increased with the increasing technology going in every nook and corner. The increasing technological advancement has allowed the crimes to get much more sophisticated then it was a decade ago. The purpose of the robberies may still be the same but the way they have been modernized with the help of the internet and mobile phones. The day isn't far when these crimes will exceed and law enforcing agencies would have no power if they didn't get more active.

Thanks to the introduction of E- Banking, these robberies have been made even easier and convenient. The use of internet allows the thieves to get access to the banking websites and internal systems that provide them a breakthrough to get to the money. Conventional robberies exist too as we see the statistics of the US's many robberies which still take place the old way; where the robbers go into the bank and take cash money but the chances of getting caught are much higher as the security systems have been upgraded too and are much more modern now with all the high tech cameras and the alarms.

Robberies are also categorized by the attorneys in 3 different degrees. The first degree robbery has a sentence up to 25 years and is of extreme violent type. The second degree is less volatile then first and has a sentence up to 15 years or depending upon the violence. The third degree is the least violent but can still cause a sentence of up to 7 years. (Don Murray 2012)

In 2011 alone, over $30 million was robbed from the banks across US and all of them were conducted in the conventional method, robbed directly from the banks (FBI report 2012). Last year FBI took an initiative for the society, to ensure their safety. They have launched a website where they post all the related information of the robbers which is easily accessible by all. The website states the subject's appearance, and other information which would help people to recognize them.

In the year 2006, 44% of the robberies reported were street robberies. Robbery charges are treated as the big league of charges, and should be treated likewise. In the past 5 years most of the robberies took place on Monday surprisingly, in the hours between 6 to 9 pm.

The cities with highest rate of robberies are New York, Ohio, Florida, Texas, and Arizona. With the majority of, bank robberies (FBI Stats 2011). Whereas in Chicago there have been 49 robberies in the year 2013 till date, and 218 robberies in the year 2012.


Deborah Lamm Weisel (March 2007), BANK ROBBERY, Problem oriented guides for police problem specific guide series Guide No.48. It summarizes how the law enforcers can decrease the after effects of the crimes being conducted. It concluded that much of the efforts are going into improving the security systems which have not contributed in reducing the robbery incidences.

Briam Krebs (March 2010), CYBER CROOKS LEAVE TRADITIONAL ROBBERS IN THE DUST. The author shows the statistics about the increasing cyber criminal activities and robberies and concludes that the increased numbers are because of the easy money is available through cyber activities with much lesser risk.

Stan Reybern (July 2009), 15 BIGGEST BANKS HEISTS EVER. The author has described some of the famous bank robberies across the globe and the possible amounts stolen as well as the opinion of the expert and the Federal Agencies.

Robert Langley (January 2011), MOM, APPLE PIE AND BANK ROBBERY- FBI UPDATES BANK ROBBERY STATISTICS, shows a pattern of robberies and reasons. The statistics are mentioned with a number of robberies as a reference.

Fuller and Grimm (November/December 2006), FOLLOW THE MONEY - TRACKING SYSTEM FOR LOCATING THE STOLEN CURRENCY. It discusses the different security systems and designs to prevent robberies and locate the stolen money.

Don Coker, BANK SECURITY PRINCIPLES AND ISSUES IMPORTANT IN BANK ROBBERY RELATED LITIGATION. It discusses some policies implemented globally, procedures and standards, bank security measures etc to help the financial institutions prevent any chanceful robberies.


Bank robberies are traumatic for those involved and sometimes lead to litigation - (DON koker, banking consultant and banking Industry Standard procedures expert witness). People consider the banks a safe haven for their money and that is why millions of people deposit their hard earned money in the banking institutions. Now considering the increasing number of bank robbery incidents that element of safety has long since been a doubt, heavy on the minds of many.

Although bank robberies are not that frequent: about 0.02% of all the robberies comprise of bank robberies while the rest are different kinds of robberies that take place. They aren't always violent as usually quoted, but being a victim of an armed person or gang is a terrifying thought in itself, that the people present have to face.

Commonly the bank robberies are reported faster than any other robberies as quoted by one of the police officers "when a bank robbery goes down all hells break loose in the police department" - (Deborah Lamm Wiesel, 2007). This is because these robberies are operated in the daylight and there are a number of eye witnesses present at the time of the robbery. Secondly, the efficient security alarm systems allow the officers to respond to the call immediately. Because of these elements the recovery of the bank money and the discovery of the robber is the highest, about 60% amongst all crimes.

The bank robberies in United States of America have been on an increase that has the authorities' concerned worried and laid pressure on the FBI and the police departments. There were 1310 reported bank robberies in the year 2010 with approximately 1500 people involved, keeping in account that not all the crimes are reported to the FBI. The increasing numbers are a result of a number of different factors.


First of all, due to all the economic and social development, the numbers of bank branches have also increases to sustain the growth financially. These increasing numbers of banks and the increased time span for the opening of these have given the robbers an opportunity to leave their mark. There were about 22000 banks in 1970 in United States of America which brew up to 70,000 outlets by the year 2000 (FBI reports and publications, 2002). The effort the banks put in to facilitate the customers better, they indirectly facilitated the robbers as well with their longer hours and easily accessible branches.

Then there is always an excuse of poverty. People are desperate because there are no jobs to sustain themselves and their families so they eventually end up doing criminal activities like robberies to get their hands on some money.

Secondly, the banks are a source of easy cash for the robbers, though the banks try keeping the cash to the lowest possible but they still hold large amounts of cash on daily basis. In the USA, banks bear losses of about 40% to 60% on average. It is noted that about only 20% of the amount stolen is recovered.

Thirdly, the predictable layout and display of all the banks make them an easy target for the robbers. The easy access, no arms held by the bankers and terror stricken victims add up to the robbers comfort and make the robberies efficient for them.

Then there is the technological advancement that we discussed before. The easy internet access, networked systems and servers have made it much easier for the robbers to rob without the physical presence. These cyber criminals robbed about $25 million in the year 2009, while on the other hand conventional robbers looted only about $9.5 million from the banks of United States of America. Thus, confirming that the e-banking activities had accelerated the robberies due to the quick and easy ways - (Brian Krebs, 2010).



One of the most famous robbers of their times were Bonnie and Clyde, who are still remembered by many people and even inspired a film. They robbed banks, stole from the Federal Government, auto theft, murders and much more. The amount stolen has never been found but they were finally pinned down by the FBI in the year 1934 and has been described by the FBI as "the most colorful and spectacular manhunts the nation has seen"- Stan Reybern (July 2009)


Then there was John Dillinger who was nicknamed Robin Hood and inspired a lot of people. He robbed about 12 commercial banks and some police stations as well. He escaped from the jail two times and was charge for a murder as well. He was finally killed in 1934 in Chicago where he was killed in a shootout by the law agents. His most famous adventures were the ones where he acted as a salesman for alarm systems and entered the banks and accessed the vaults and cash. His acts and adventures became public when a book was published in his name, The Dillinger Days, which exaggerated his bravado and colorful personality.


"Mummy Bandit" one of the most famous bank robbers of his time and was termed as such due to the bandages that he used to wear on his face at the time of the robbery. He had robbed a number of banks in the Northwest Philadelphia including Wachovia Bank, Valley Green Bank, Citizens Bank and Sovereign Bank. He was arrested in 2010 in Havertown by FBI when the robber was found loitering near a bank (Germantown chronicle, 2010).


William Sutton was famous for conducting robberies in disguises. He approximately stole $2 million in his forty years of robbery criminal career and was in jail half his life. "You can't rob a bank on charm and personality"- Willie Sutton once quoted. He was known as a kind of Robin Hood because he didn't carry a loaded gun in fear that somebody might get hurt nor did he rob a bank if a child cried or a woman screamed. His disguises included being a postman, a police officer, maintenance man etc. He was captured in 1934 for robbing Corn Exchange Bank and was recaptured the same day when he tried to escape prison. He was once asked the reason for robbing a bank and he said "because that's where the money is"- (quoted by Mitch Ohnstad).

Due to increasing bank robberies in USA, Banks have become quiet alert and have installed security devices to prevent any possible robbery plans and to safeguard the premises.


In the year 2004, the statistics show that the bank robberies made up the 2.4% of all the crimes as they are considered one of the lowest risky and easy robberies as the staff is trained to comply with the wants of the robbers and not retaliate. Considering that it does not mean that the banks do not do anything to prevent such mishaps. A number of techniques and devices are being used, some of them are mentioned below in the coming discussion.


The Federal Banking Policies require a security program of the bank in detail embedded in the standard policies and procedures of the institution as stated below:

"Upon the deposit of the federal deposit insurance, the board of directors of each insured nonmember bank shall designate a security officer who shall have the authority, subject to the approval of the board of directors, to develop, within a reasonable time, but no later than 180 days, and to administer a written security program for each banking office. - (FDIC regulation codified 12 CFR 326.2)

A certain kind of GPS device and a tracking system has been developed over time to track the stolen money and locate it. These systems are said to have 73% success rate at locating the stolen money that is better as compared to the clearance rate of 57% maintained by the FBI.


Over the years dye packs have been used to stain the money that has been robbed from the banks to make it identifiable to the law enforcement agencies and public. But then again every substance has a limitation, and this products limitation is careful and special handling because of which it hasn't yet been adopted by many banks.


Another system adopted RF Beacon which shows the possible routes to be taken by the robbers, plus it activates all the nearby stations of the robbery in progress. It is like a networked device that once activated alerts the nearby stations and gets them on the road as soon as possible. However it needs a beacon receiver station to be present around the area of operation that is in a way a handicap of this device. This makes it unviable for the banks to place receivers across the area and doesn't justify its financial costs.


A GPS system was invented to cover the limitations of the other designs for cash tracking systems. It is a combination of the former two devices is much adaptable to the environment. It has much wider network coverage and much better access and a tracking system to pursue the robbers as well as locating the money. The GPS systems are now installed in many commercial bank branches across the USA.


Use of revolving doors, strict checking measures, and lower withdrawal limits on the ATM machines can very well slow down the pace of the robbery. This may give the police department ample time to reach the premises and stop the operation in time. If not stop the robbery can well give them closer lead to pursue the robbers.


It helps if the banking institutions make it a policy that all the customers entering the bank are required to remove their glasses, hats etc that they think can actually help them pull off a disguise. This helps to a certain extent well enough as a security measure for the banks. Many potential robbers make use of different props to disguise their face and then rob the bank so that no one present at the crime scene might be able to identify them later.


Nowadays almost all the financial intuitions have hired armed guards to protect the institutions. The guards are placed at the entrance with an electronic checking device that inspects the baggage and purses carried by the customers for any potential arms. The presences of the armed guards are very helpful in protecting the bank and preventing any possible bank robberies. It has been seen that the branches with armed guards have a lesser chance at being robbed as compared to those that have installed security guards as the mere presence of armed guards puts off the plans of robbery at most times.


Financial institutions even have sessions in which they actually give their staff training as to how to recognize any suspicious behavior in the customers. They are given knowledge and facts to spot any suspicious activities or any unusual behavior of the customer and handle them accordingly. This can even reduce the chance of robbery or a possible act in time and can help in alerting the concerned authorities in time.


Therefore, it is logical to conclude that security measures are essential to a banking institutions considering they have large amounts of cash of numerous customers. "Some institutions, alert to what is happening, are actively fighting back robbery. Bank of America, for instance, working closely with other financial institutions and with law enforcement, has changed their training, installed and changed their physical branch environments. They have installed dye packs, bullet resistant bandit barriers, mantraps with weapons detection capabilities, high tech digital surveillance systems that expediate transfer of photos to police and instituted additional professional training for banking centre associates. In some high risk areas they've also deployed professionally trained, armed security officers. And they have seen robberies in the greater Los Angeles area drop to 24 in the last six months of last year from 77 during the same months the year before." - (Bankers Hotline, Volume 13 No 4 in 2003).

If we have a look at the history and trends of robberies, one can be sure that they tend to take place in the commercial areas with a lot of activities and crowd as it gives the robbers a perfect disguise and moment to blend in without being noticed much. Secondly, what is taken into account is that most of the police and law enforcing agencies are pressing the banks for better security and surveillance systems, however, along with these systems the agencies themselves need to devise strategies for efficient working and quick action against any such activities.

The reports of the Federal agencies show that the increasing numbers are being seen in the robbery cases of the banks in different states across the United States of America and that has made them strengthen their own formulations and strategies to enable them to fight these robbers. With the installation of such modern devices the percentage of the clearance rate has also been seen increasing with is a positive sign for them. If the systems designs are adopted widely with care and precision they might succeed in reducing the robbery numbers even further.