Bank robbers succeeded in stealing nearly $61 million in cash in 2008; of that, only about $9 million was ever recovered, according to FBI statistics. And although the number of robberies appeared to be trending down as 2009 drew to a close, the size of the losses was still significant, with more than $20 million taken from banks in the first six months. Additionally, at least seven deaths and more than 40 injuries were attributed to bank robberies in that time period alone.
Figuring out the best way to protect a public place where so many financial assets are available on a daily basis can be extremely difficult. Banks are taking on that challenge by working closely with law enforcement and their peers to spot trends and patterns. They then use that knowledge in conjunction with technology to counter the identified threats in new and creative ways.
There is no such thing as a bank robbery panacea, but what experts do know is that bank robbery tends to be a serialized crime. “Once an individual robs one bank, chances are that he or she is going to keep robbing banks until they’re apprehend-
ed,” says Detective Sergeant Robert Doyle, of New York’s Suffolk County Police Department. Thus, every time one bank robber is caught, multiple future incidents of robbery are prevented.
Cooperation between police departments and banks is a key element in developing intelligence on robberies that can lead to apprehension and lessons for improving security, but the level of cooperation varies depending on location, crime counts, and resources. Doyle’s police department, located in a suburban county near New York City, takes a proactive approach, reaching out to banks in its jurisdiction. It also confers with police departments outside of county lines to get advance notice of trends or new robbery scenarios that may not yet have hit Suffolk County.
The department has always prided itself on a high bank robbery “clearance” rate (meaning the rate of cases solved), according to Doyle. However, a few years ago, Suffolk County experienced a 100 percent increase in robberies, which spurred the department to get more involved with the banks. Doyle’s department pinpointed about 50 banks that were being robbed at a higher rate than the rest of the more than 450 branches in the county, and officers analyzed the likely contributing factors, such as location, design, and security technology.
Based on those findings, the police provided the banks with training on robbery prevention and also taught them how to help preserve the crime scene for police to aid in apprehension. As a result, the level of bank robberies per year stopped rising.