Freeze! The Cold Hard Facts on Bank Robberies in 2009

You might think that bank robberies would be on the climb during The Great Recession. But so far, that hasn’t been case. Using official FBI data, The Financial Brand looked at bank robbery statistics for the 47,242 robberies of U.S. financial institutions that occurred between 2003 and 2009. The study showed that even though Americans are reeling from one of the worst economic periods in the country’s history, bank robberies are actually on the decline.

In 2003 there were 7,442 robberies, dropping to 5,943 in 2009. That’s nearly 1,500 fewer robberies.

Every year, there are between 5,000 and 6,000 commercial banks robbed, compared with fewer than 500 credit union robberies. Commercial banks are the most common target, representing 88.8% of all robberies.

2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 Total %
Commercial Bank 6,530 6,687 6,019 6,154 5,305 5,960 5,316 41,971 88.8%
Mutual Savings 186 168 129 114 103 110 51 861 1.8%
Savings & Loan 226 188 144 159 127 147 106 1,097 2.3%
Credit Union 500 467 422 521 450 483 470 3,313 7.0%
Total 7,442 7,510 6,714 6,948 5,985 6,700 5,943 47,242 100%

Demand notes are used in 56.7% of robberies. Robbers threaten to have a weapon 45% of the time. When a weapon is used, handguns are the most common. Slightly more than one in four robbers reveal their handgun. A mere 3% threaten to possess a bomb or other explosive device.

Robbers have not gotten much smarter over the years. Despite harsher penalties for using a firearm in the commission of a felony, the same percentage of robbers use guns today as they did seven years ago.

A total of just under $46 million in loot was taken by robbers in 2009. That’s an average haul of only $7,736.50.

Contrary to popular belief, the risk of robbery does not increase significantly on Fridays. A financial institution is no more than 4% more likely to be robbed on a Friday vs. any other weekday. The risk is only three times greater for a robbery on a Friday than on a Saturday. An alarming 7% of robberies occur on Saturdays, which is quite surprising considering the shorter branch hours and fewer number of branches that are open.

More than a quarter of all robberies occur between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. Branches are at their highest risk of robbery in the first two hours after they open, with the level of risk diminishing slightly as the day progresses. The fewest daytime robberies occur in the last three hours of the day (between 3:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m.) Only 7% of all robberies occur after hours (between 6 p.m. and 9 a.m.).

2009 was the first year the FBI started tracking takeovers as a method of robbery. In 2009, there were 306 takeovers, representing only 0.6% of all robberies.

The perpetrator of a robbery is predominantly male. In 2009, the ratio of male to female robbers was 16:1. 41% of perpetrators are white, 46% black, 8% Hispanic and 5% from other ethnicities.

2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 Total
Injuries 153 146 141 129 111 123 140 943
Deaths 21 20 21 13 19 21 21 136
Hostages 82 74 70 80 102 105 94 607

Out of over 47,000 robberies in the last 7 years, only 9 employees and customers were killed.

Between 2003 and 2009, a total of 136 people have been killed in the course of financial institution robberies, 108 of them were perpetrators (79%). In those seven years, a total of 28 people other than perpetrators were killed, only 9 of which were employees or customers.

In 2009, all 21/21 of the people killed in the commission of a robbery were perpetrators. It’s quite likely that 2009 was the first year in U.S. history where no one other than perpetrators were killed during a robbery.


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