NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

FBI Wants Banks to Protect Themselves Against Robberies

October 8, 2002

Banks have long followed a quiet policy of advising their tellers to give in to the demands of bank robbers: hand over the money without resisting. They don't want anybody killed and the loss is simply counted as a cost of doing business. Anyway, the Federal Bureau of Investigation will handle it.

But the FBI has shifted its priorities to fighting the war on terrorism and no longer has the resources it once had to catching robbers. Consequently, it is advising bank officials upgrade their own defenses.

  • The FBI tracked 8,322 bank robberies in 2001 -- up 17 percent from the year before.
  • As recently as the early 1960s, there were only about 500 or so bank robberies a year.
  • Authorities say bloodshed is rare during bank holdups and the average take is only about $1,200.
  • Criminals are caught in some 60 percent of bank robbery cases -- far above the solution rate of 25 percent for all robberies.

FBI officials want banks to post uniformed, armed guards outside their doors and install bullet-resistant plastic in front of teller windows. Another solution, often used in Europe but rare in the U.S., is the "man trap" -- a bullet-resistant vestibule that lets customers in one at a time and can scan them for weapons.

Source: John Hechinger, "As Robberies Rise, Banks, FBI Debate Boosting Security," Wall Street Journal, October 8, 2002.

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