Your Local Problem
The information above provides only a generalized
description of bank robbery. You must combine the basic facts with a more
specific understanding of your local problem. Analyzing the local problem
carefully will help you design a more effective response strategy.
In addition to criminal justice agencies, including the FBI,
the following groups have an interest in the bank robbery problem and should be
considered for the contribution they might make to gathering information about
the problem and responding to it:
- banks, especially risk management personnel and local branch
- state and federal banking regulatory agencies;
- state and national banking associations; and
- banking security companies or consultants.
Asking the Right Questions
The following are some critical questions you should ask in
analyzing your particular problem of bank robbery, even if the answers are not
always readily available. Your answers to these and other questions will help
you choose the most appropriate set of responses later on.
You may have a variety
of hunches about which factors contribute to your bank robbery problem—for
example, branch locations, parking lot and building layout, or management
practices. You should test these hunches against available data before
developing a response. Because bank robberies are rare, it is important to
examine the differences between robbed and unrobbed branches. While police
often know much about branches that get robbed, it is important to compare this
information with data concerning unrobbed branches, as most bank branches are
Your analysis will be
improved if you examine several years worth of data. Examining
multijurisdictional data can also be useful. This is especially important if
your jurisdiction has few robberies each year.
- How many bank robberies have there been? Is the number of
bank robberies increasing? How does the number of bank robberies compare
to the number of other commercial robberies? In jurisdictions with more
robberies it may make sense to examine monthly or quarterly figures. In
jurisdiction with fewer robberies, consider combining your data with that
of neighboring jurisdictions.
- How successful are bank robberies?
- How many robberies are attempted? How many are completed?
These figures can be used to calculate the bank robbery failure rate.
- How much money is taken? Be sure to calculate both the
average amount and the range from high to low, paying particular
attention to robberies with zero losses.
- How much money is recovered? Be sure to include the
total, average, and range from high to low.
- How many robberies are cleared?
- How many result in arrests on or near the scene of the
- How many are cleared the same day?
- How much time elapses between offense and clearance? You
can standardize these figures by grouping clearances within one day, two
days, one week, one month, and so forth.
- How many robberies are cleared through a direct arrest?
How many are cleared as exceptional according to the FBI’s Uniform Crime
Potential Bank Victims
Every bank robbery has two victims: the branch that was
robbedÂ and the bank or corporation that owns the robbed branch. That is, Wells
Fargo is a banking corporation that operates many branches. When a Well Fargo
branch is robbed, both the branch and the parent corporation are victimized.
The risk of victimization will vary both by branch and by bank. Determining how
victimization is distributed among banks and branches will help you identify the
factors that increase the risk of robbery.
- How many bank corporations are in your jurisdiction? What
types are they? Credit unions? Savings and loans? Retail or commercial
banks? Remember that ownership can change over time as a result of merger
- How many branches are operated by banks in your
jurisdiction? You can use both addresses and bank names as unique
identifiers, but remember to note any changes in branch ownership.
- For each branch, determine:
- What type of branch is it? In-store? Traditional? Main
- What are the days and times of operations? Are there
- How many teller windows are there? How many employees?
Does this vary by time or day? Does the branch have hours when staffing
- How busy is the bank? How many customer transactions are
there per day? Does the volume of business vary during the day or week?
Does the branch have vulnerable periods, such as during money transfers?
Does the bank have cash-rich periods, such as specific paydays?
- Does the branch focus on specific types of customers,
such as seniors or students? Does it offer particular types of services,
such as check cashing?
- What are the security practices of the branches?
- What types of physical security are used? Man-traps?
Bandit barriers? Metal detectors?
- What types of access control are used? Weapon detection
systems? Key cards?
- What type of electronic surveillance is used? What is the
reliability and quality of the imaging?
- What cash management practices are used? Cash limits?
Cash dispensing machines? Timed safes?
- What is the bank’s policy on activating alarms?
- What other security practices are employed? Armed or
unarmed guards? Greeters? Mandatory removal of hats and scarves?
- How many banks have been robbed? How many branches of each
have been robbed? Be sure to differentiate between banks and branch
locations. What types of banks are they? Credit unions? Savings and loans?
- How many robberies are there by branch type?
- How many times has each branch been robbed? Are there branches that have never been robbed?
- Are certain branches victimized repeatedly? Record the timeÂ between robberies at the same branch. This is generally reported as the number of days or weeks between robberies.
- What is the sequence of successful robberies? Are successful robberies more likely to recur? Are high loss robberies more likely to recur? Do successive robberies involve fewer offenders?
- Where do robberies occur?
- What are the traffic patterns of the streets where the
robbed branches are located? Are they located on busy streets? Close to
major highways? On major thoroughfares? In business districts? In
- Are the land parcels of robbed branches easily accessible
by foot? Are they easily accessible by motor vehicle?
- How is the visibility at robbed branches? Are entrances
clearly visible from nearby roadways or businesses? Are branch interiors
visible from the outside? Are branch interiors visible from drive-through
- When are branches robbed?
- Are branches robbed at particular times of day? Opening
time? Lunchtime? NearÂ closing?
- Are branches more likely to be victimized on certain days
or during specific weeks or months?
- Are there seasonal variations? Do more robberies occur
during winter months when it gets dark earlier?
- How many customers are present during robberies? Are the
lobbies empty or filled with customers?
- What areas of the branch are robbed? Single or multiple
teller windows? Vaults?
Although it may be tempting to focus only on the corporate
victims, individuals can also be victimized during a bank robbery: bank
employees—especially tellers—and customers may be threatened, injured, taken
hostage, or even killed.
- What type of employee was confronted by the robber? Teller?
- Where was the employee physically located? Near a door? At her work station?
- What were the employee’s physical characteristics? Age?
Gender? Physique? How long had the staff member been employed? Had she
received training regarding bank robbery?
- How did employees respond to the robbery? Were bank
policies followed? Were alarms activated? Were dye packs or bait money
- Was anyone injured in the robbery? What type of injuries were suffered? (Many employees may feel debilitating fear following a robbery; robbery training can address this reaction.)
- What were the characteristics of customers involved in the robbery? Physical location? Age? Physique? Gender?
- Many bank robberies can be sorted into the work of
professionals or amateurs (consistent with Figure 3) based upon the
answers to the following questions.
- How many offenders were there? Multiple offenders? A lone robber?
- Was a weapon used? Did the offender present a simple note demand?
- Did violence occur? Were hostages taken?
- Were disguises used?
- Did the robbers attempt to disable cameras or other surveillance equipment?
- Did the robbers give detailed instructions to the employees, such as demanding money without dye packs or instructing them not to set off the alarm?
- How did the robbers escape? On foot? By bicycle? In cars? Do these characteristics vary by branch?
- What are the demographic characteristics of the robbers? Age? Gender? Race and ethnicity? Is there gang involvement? Are drugs or alcohol involved?
- How committed are robbers? How far do they travel to rob branches? Do they have criminal histories that including bank robbery? Have they committed prior bank robberies?
Measuring Your Effectiveness
Measurement allows you to determine to what degree your
efforts have succeeded, and suggests how you might modify your responses if
they are not producing the intended results. You should take measures of your
problem before you implement responses, to determine how serious the
problem is, and after you implement them, to determine whether they have
been effective. In many cases, measures should be developed to detect
displacement of robberies into surrounding areas or onto other branches. (For
more detailed guidance on measuring effectiveness, see the companion guide to
this series, Assessing Responses to Problems: An Introductory Guide for
You should use measures that specifically relate to the
response implemented; for example, police might give target-hardening advice to
bank robbery victims following a robbery. . If branch managers fail to change
their cash management practices, other security measures may have little
impact. In addition, you must determine how many banks and branches are in your
area before measuring response effectiveness. You can obtain such information
from your state’s banking regulator, the state or local banking association, or
other sources. Finally, because bank robbery is a relatively rare crime, you
should compare robbery trends in your jurisdiction with those of other
jurisdictions, especially those that are similar to your own.
The following are potentially useful measures of the
effectiveness of responses to bank robbery.
- Reduction in the number of bank robberies.
- Reduction in the number of robbed banks or branches relative to all banks and branches.
- Reduction in the number of repeat robberies.
- Reduction in bank robberies as a percentage of commercial robberies.
- Reduction of violence in bank robberies.
- Reduction in the percentage of bank robberies where weapons are used.
- Reduction in the percentage of robberies with injuries, violence, threats, or hostage taking.
- Reduction in the success of bank robberies.
- Reduction in the percentage of completed bank robberies.
- Reduction in the financial loss from robberies. (This can be computed as both a total and an average, including and excluding failed robberies. Be sure to include the range of money taken, from high to low, as a single high-dollar robbery will otherwise distort the results).
- Increase in the amount of money recovered.
- Increase in the proportion of robberies where the money is recovered.
- Increase in the proportion of robberies cleared by arrest.[aa] (Note that this measure does not directly reflect changes in the number of
robberies, but may be an indirect measure of the effectiveness of the response. Even a single arrest can reduce the number of incidents).
- Reduction in the number of bank robberies related to each arrest.
- Reduction in clearance time.