The Economics of Bank Robberies

Crime doesn’t pay when it comes to robbing banks, a new study finds… Economist Neil Rickman of the University of Surrey and his colleagues were given unusual access to financial data from the British Bankers’ Association. Such data about robberies are not usually disclosed to the public because it is commercially sensitive and could encourage copycat robbers. The data details:

In 2007, there were 106 bank robberies or attempted robberies at the 10,500 bank branches, compared with 7,500 robberies of other businesses. (In the U.S. in 2006, there were about 12,000 bank robberies.) Although bank robberies in Southern California tend to occur in higher numbers at branches near freeway entrances, the British team found no link to branch size, branch location, or how busy a particular branch is. Of all those robbed, only 13 were targeted twice and only one three times. About a third of attempted robberies were unsuccessful, and about 20% of the successful robbers were ultimately caught and convicted.

The average take in a British bank robbery is a modest 12,706.60 euros (about $15,887) per person, compared with an average of $4,330 in U.S. bank robberies. Given that the average U.K.wage for fully employed people in Britain is about 26,000 euros, a bank robbery “will give him a modest lifestyle for no more than 6 months.” If he robs two, he will still have only a modest lifestyle. Four robberies, and the odds are excellent that he will land in jail…Using a firearm in the robbery increases the average take by 10,300 euros (nearly $13,000). Each additional member of the gang raises the take by 9,033 euros ($11,600), but that means the average take per robber is lower.

Successful criminals study econometrics, the authors conclude, but based on the data provided, robbing banks is still a bad idea, economically speaking.


(hat tip: Tyler Cowen)

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