If you were to imagine robbing a bank, images from dozens of dramatic films might spring to mind — men with masks and guns violently crashing into the bank in the middle of the day, firing shots into the air and leaping onto desks. You might picture how they have to deal with a “wild card” persona that could kill someone at any moment, and the getaway driver who just wants to lead a normal life. Some of these movies are great — some even place among my favorites, but they usually depart far from the average bank robbery.

Another image that comes to mind is the stacks and stacks of cash that the movie’s anti-heroes tend to carry out with them, but the reality may be a little disappointing for an aspiring bank robber. According to the FBI statistics in 2011, the average robbery produced $7,647.29. Of course, these statistics are skewed in that there are majorly successful robberies and plenty of botched ones, but as an average, it can give you an idea that perhaps it’s not the hefty payday many imagine — in the same year, 11% of the robberies amounted to nothing taken at all.

Hostage taking is uncommon, but it has happened. In 2016, there were 31 instances in which hostages were taken. Of course, the taking of hostages exponentially increases the chances for violence. Deaths have occurred in seven of all bank robberies in 2016, only one of which was an employee — the rest were the perpetrators. Injuries had a dissimilar ratio: 23 out of 43 were employees of the financial institution, seven were of the perpetrator and the rest were miscellaneous like guards or customers.

With violence comes added penalties should the robber get caught. Many bank robbers don’t use weapons at all, simply telling the tellers that it’s a robbery and that they should give them the cash. The bank employees aren’t going to risk their lives on the off-chance that the robber is unarmed, and they are under direction to simply give up the cash. Though the payout of unarmed robbery tends to be lower, so are the consequences.

South San Francisco, Calif. Police respond to a bank robbery | AP Photo/Ben Margot

Reading through the FBI’s 2016 report, vast regions generally had similar amounts of robberies — the Northeast had 1,022, North Central America had 849, the South had 1,292 and the West had 1,013. However, once you get into individual state numbers, it’s interesting. You start to get massive amounts of robberies in one state, and in the next state over you have zero. For example, Massachusetts claimed a staggering 243 robberies in 2016, but New Hampshire had none. Nebraska suffered 75 robberies in the same year, while neighboring South Dakota had zero.


Featured image courtesy of the Associated Press.