Italy Leads Europe in Bank Robberies

By John Barham, International Editor

Italy has the busiest bank robbers in Europe, a report from the country’s banking federation says. Italian bank robbers held up a record 1,565 banks in the first half of this year, according to the banking federation.  The report says bank robberies increased by more than 26 percent between January and June.

The report (available in Italian) says Italy accounts for half of Europe’s bank robberies. Last year, Italy had 2,735 bank robberies—more than three times the number in Germany, which had 728 robberies. The U.K. had just 122 bank robberies in 2006.

On average, Italian bank robbers take 20,000 euros in each assault – about a quarter of the amount more productive robbers take from banks in Switzerland or the Netherlands.

American bank robbers are even less accomplished than their Italian colleagues. Almost 7,000 banks were hit up in 2006 and bank robbers made off with $70 million in cash, according to F.B.I data available here. That’s about $10,000 on average for each heist.

The loot raised in high-risk bank assaults are far smaller than the sums lost to online theft and in-house fraud. A report by Deloitte says that in 35 percent of cases of IT security breaches, losses to banks—including reputational and internal impacts as well as financial costs—can run as high as $49 million.

Italy suffers so many bank robberies because branches lack sufficient security systems. The rates of detection, arrest, and incarceration are low, fostering a climate of impunity.

Italian legislators are debating whether to encourage financial institutions to invest in security equipment by offering them tax breaks, and punish them with fines if they fail to meet minimum security standards. They are also discussing plans to raise sentences for convicted bank robbers.


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