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Bank Heists By the Numbers

There were almost 6,000 bank robberies in the US last year. Here's a look at those details, and some tips on what to do if you find yourself in one of these situations.

bank robberies in America

Bank robberies are a frighteningly common occurrence. The FBI reports that a new bank robbery occurs every hour.

Fortunately, there are steps that customers inside a bank can take to minimize their chances of getting harmed. Customers can also play their part in helping police capture the bank robbers. It just requires that customers be alert, refrain from trying to play the hero and don’t disturb any evidence once the crime has been completed.

It’s important for customers to know what not to do during a bank robbery. In fact, this may be more important than anything customers can do. The FBI recommends that customers refrain from trying to stop a bank robbery by force. Most bank robbers are heavily armed. By trying to play the hero, customers might cause serious injuries, even deaths, to their fellow bank patrons and to the bank’s employees.

Patrons should also refrain from staring at bank robbers. This makes robbers nervous; they might think that you are trying to memorize their clothing or physical traits to share with law enforcement officials after the robbery. This can provoke bank robbers to take potentially deadly action against you or your fellow bank patrons.

Following a robbery, customers should refrain from talking with other customers about the robbery. There’s a good reason for this: Patrons usually remember different things about a robbery. There’s no telling which of these pieces of information will ultimately prove important to law enforcement officers. If customers start sharing information, they may inadvertently influence each other. Some might begin to remember the event differently. Others might try to force their views on their fellow patrons. This discussion can result in a wildly distorted picture of the actual bank robbery.

Finally, bank customers should not touch anything following a bank robbery. This way, they won’t accidentally damage any evidence that police officers can use to eventually apprehend the robbers.

There is one thing that customers can do during a robbery: They can stay alert. Customers should try as best as possible to memorize bank robbers’ physical traits, such as their eye color, hair color and mannerisms. They should study robbers’ clothing, especially paying a close attention to layers. Remember, most bank robbers will shed their outer layer of clothing following a robbery. It’s important for bank patrons to get some idea of what robbers are wearing under that first outer layer.

Patrons should also pay attention to the types of weapons that robbers are using. Police officers will need to know this. A description of the robbers’ car usually is not as important; most times this vehicle has been stolen and will soon be ditched. It is important, though, for bank patrons to pay attention to what direction the robbers drive off in.

The good news is that police officers end up catching most bank robbers. In 2009, police caught three out of every four bank robbers.

Of course, that still didn’t prevent these criminals from robbing 5,943 banks in 2009. These robbers escaped with a total of $46 million. Also in 2009, robbers took 94 hostages. A total of 21 people were killed during bank robberies in 2009. All of these were bank robbers themselves.

Of the bank robberies in 2009, 3,269 involved a demand note, while 1,619 involved a firearm of some kind.

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