There was an interesting article over at the Wall Street Journal that looked at the decline of bank robbery here in the United States.
Bank holdups have been nearly cut in half over the past decade—to 5.1 robberies per 100 U.S. banks in 2011. Though the nationwide crime rate is dropping, the decline in bank robberies far exceeds the decline in other crimes, according to Federal Bureau of Investigation data. Preliminary 2012 figures released last week show the lowest tally in decades: 3,870 bank robberies, down from more than 5,000 a year earlier.
Bank-security experts and former FBI agents attribute the decline to stepped-up security and tougher sentencing for bank robbers. Many also say that more recently, sophisticated criminals are recognizing bank robbery as a high-risk, low-reward crime and are migrating online.
Crime analysts use the term displacement to refer to the idea that crime will sometimes move when enforcement activity is directed towards these crimes. Most often, this term applies to spatial displacement. If crime occurs in one area and enforcement efforts are stepped up, crime will sometimes move to another area. In a way you could argue that criminals turning from bank robbery to other types of financial crimes is a type of displacement. Regardless of what you want to call this trend, a reduction in bank robbery is a good thing.
Armed robberies are inherently dangerous to the public, to law enforcement and to the crook. The important lesson here is that some of the credit for this trend lies in relatively low cost measures such as better bank security and improved cash handling procedures. A 70% decrease in robberies due to the use of “bandit barriers” by Southern California banks is nothing to sneeze at.
If Willie Sutton was around today, he might have to brush up on his computer skills.