June 13, 2012
Bank Robbery Doesn’t Pay (Much)
By Christopher Shea
Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty, as Bonnie and Clyde, in the 1967 film.
Any would-be bank robber who does the math will find another line of work, argue three economists granted access to a confidential data set kept by the British Bankers’ Association.
In what’s billed as the first cost-benefit analysis of such crimes, the authors note that Britain saw 106 attempted or successful robberies of 10,500 branch banks in 2007. The average haul was $31,600, including the one-third of attempts that came up empty. The average “successful” heist landed about $46,600 — but about 20% of those successes were later tarnished, to say the least, when the raiders were arrested. Each incident involved an average of 1.6 people, resulting in a per-person take of $19,750: a mere half-years’ worth of wages for the average Britisher. (In the U.S., the authors say, the average total bank-robbery take, per incident, is even smaller, just over $4,000.) Think a half-year’s salary isn’t bad for one day’s work, plus a little planning? A “career” bank robber would more likely than not be arrested after only four attempts.
The authors of the study are Barry Reilly, of the University of Sussex, and Neil Rickman and Robert Witt, of the University of Surrey.
In Britain, ultra-fast-rising security screens tend to be used instead of armed guards. They cost nearly $7,000 per teller (and, where they’re installed, they reduce the average bank-heist haul basically to zero). About a tenth of banks have them. But given the penny-ante stakes of bank robbery, the authors argue they’re a pointless expense.
“The return on an average bank robbery is, frankly, rubbish,” they write.
(Significance, the magazine in which the article appears, is published by the Royal Statistical Society and targeted in part at a non-academic audience. Noting that successful criminals have probably already crunched the numbers and eschewed bank robbery for more remunerative illegal endeavors, Professors Reilly, Rickman, and Witt conclude by observing: “Statistics can help in all walks of life.”)
Source: “Robbing Banks: Crime Does Pay — But Not Very Much,” Barry Reilly, Neil Rickman and Robert Witt, Significance (June)
- Why Robbing A Bank Won’t Make You Rich (huffingtonpost.com)
- Crime doesn’t pay: a statistical analysis of bank robbery earnings [SciencePunk] (scienceblogs.com)
- The Economics of Bank Robberies (readingbyeugene.com)
- Crime pays for bank robbers – until the fourth raid (telegraph.co.uk)
- Shopaholic wears designer duds during Manhattan bank robbery spree (thegrio.com)
- Bank Robber Arrest (wtok.com)
- Bank robbers end up with less from risky heists than the average worker earns in six months (dailymail.co.uk)
- What You Should Know Before Robbing a Bank (usnews.com)
- Doing The Math: Bank Robbery Doesn’t Pay [Study] (inquisitr.com)
- Robbing banks: Crime doesn’t always pay, econometrics study shows (eurekalert.org)