“Why rob a bank?” That’s the question posed by FBI Agent Beth Boxwell at a recent Financial Crimes Investigators of Madison (FCI) meeting. The answer? It's easier for many criminals because banks are a known entity versus robbing a gas station or other business. They understand there likely will be a higher amount of cash and that staff are trained to get criminals out of the bank as soon as possible.

On the other hand, bank robbers are more likely to be captured. At nearly 60%, bank robberies have one of the highest clearance rates of all crimes.

Bank robbers are usually serial or repeat offenders and tend to be associated with other violent criminal activity, according to the FBI.

The FBI categorizes bank robberies into four categories:

  1. Note Job – Any robbery which involves the criminal passing a note to the teller. If you can do it safely, the FBI recommends keeping the note as it can help with their investigation.
  2. Takeover-style – Technically, every bank robbery that takes place within the bank falls into this category because the criminal is literally taking over the branch.
  3. Bombs or bomb threat – This is the rarest of bank robberies as most criminals aren’t using explosives or the threat of explosives during the event.
  4. Drive-through – This is a growing category within bank robberies as more criminals are literally using the bank’s drive-through to make their demands.

It is critical that all bank employees are trained in case their bank is targeted by criminals. The FBI offered the following tips below for bankers. While many bank security officers already take these steps (and more), the tips are a good reminder and give insight on the perspective of law enforcement on some of the steps you can take to make your bank safe.

Bank Robbery Prevention Tips

  • Follow your company’s opening and closing procedures.
  • Be observant before opening and after closing bank.
  • Do not allow any unauthorized person(s) in bank when closed.
  • Be observant of all suspicious person(s) loitering within or near bank.
  • Report suspicious person or activity to supervisor.
  • Do not share bank information, policies, or security features with anyone.

During a Bank Robbery

  • Follow the bank’s procedures in complying with the robber’s demands.
  • Be observant and note the robber’s physical description, facial features, clothing, and distinguishing features. Note what the robber touched while in the bank. In short, try to be a good witness.
  • Don’t try to be a hero.

After the Bank Robbery

  • Witnesses should try to observe the robber’s escape method (i.e. on foot or by vehicle) and the direction traveled. If by vehicle, note the description of the vehicle.
  • Bank employees should call the police to confirm the alarm and secure the robbery scene.
  • Immediately lock all doors and try to keep any witnesses in the bank until law enforcement arrives.
  • Witnesses should not discuss their observances with others and should not view surveillance tapes or photos.
  • A list of all employees and customers present during the robbery should be provided to law enforcement.
  • Minimize contact with the media and refer any media inquires to the FBI media representative in the local FBI field office or police department.
  • If a bomb was used during the robbery, do not use any electronic devices (such as alarms, cell phones, hard line phones, and two-way radios), as these may trigger the bomb. Evacuate everyone from the immediate vicinity of the bomb and call law enforcement from a safe location.

Most importantly, the safety of bank employees and customers is the number one concern for both the bank and law enforcement. All training should be designed and implemented with that goal in mind.