According to the FBI, most modern-day bank robberies are "unsophisticated
and unprofessional crimes," committed by young male repeat offenders who
apparently don't know the first thing about their business. This information
was included in an interesting, amusing article titles "How Not to Rob a Bank,"
by Tim Clark, which appeared in the 1987 edition of The Old Farmers Almanac.
Clark reported that in spite of the widespread use of surveillance cameras,
76 percent of bank robbers use no disquise, 86 percent never study the bank
before robbing it, and 95 percent make no long-range plans for concealing the
loot. Thus, he offered this advice to would-be bank robbers, along with
examples of what can happen if the rules aren't followed:
1. Pick the right bank. Clark advises that you don't follow the lead of the
fellow in Anaheim, Cal., who tried to hold up a bank that was no longer in
business and had no money. On the other hand, you don't want to be too
familiar with the bank. A California robber ran into his mother while making
his getaway. She turned him in.
2. Approach the right teller. Granted, Clark says, this is harder to plan.
One teller in Springfield, Mass., followed the holdup man out of the bank and
down the street until she saw him go into a restaurant. She hailed a passing
police car, and the police picked him up. Another teller was given a holdup
note by a robber, and her father, who was next in line, wrestled the man to the
ground and sat on him until authorities arrived.
3. Don't sign your demand note. Demand notes have been written on the back
of a subpoena issued in the name of a bank robber in Pittsburgh, on an envelope
bearing the name and address of another in Detriot, and in East Hartford,
Conn., on the back of a withdrawal slip giving the robber's signature and
4. Beware of dangerous vegetables. A man in White Plains, N.Y., tried to
hold up a bank with a zucchini. The police captured him at his house, where he
showed them his "weapon."
5. Avoid being fussy. A robber in Panorama City, Cal., gave a teller a note
saying, "I have a gun. Give me all your twenties in this envelope." The
teller said, "All I've got is two twenties." The robber took them and left.
6. Don't advertise. A holdup man thought that if he smeared mercury ointment
on his face, it would make him invisible to the cameras. Actually, it
accentuated his features, giving authorities a much clearer picture. Bank
robbers in Minnesota and California tried to create a diversion by throwing
stolen money out of the windows of their cars. They succeeded only in drawing
attention to themselves.
7. Take right turns only. Avoid the sad fate of the thieves in Florida who
took a wrong turn and ended up on the Homestead Air Force Base. They drove up
to a military police guardhouse and, thinking it was a toolbooth, offered the
security men money.
8. Provide your own transportation. It is not clever to borrow the teller's
car, which she carefully described to police. This resulted in the most
quickly solved bank robbery in the history of Pittsfield, Mass.
9. Don't be too sensitive. In these days of exploding dye packs, stuffing
the cash into your pants can lead to embarrassing stains, Clark points out,
not to mention severe burns in sensitive places--as bandits in San Diego and
Boston painfully discovered.
10. Consider another line of work. One nervous Newport, R.I., robber, while
trying to stuff his ill-gotten gains into his shirt pocket, shot himself in
the head and died instantly. Then there was the case of the hopeful criminal
in Swansea, Mass., who, when the teller told him she had no money, fainted.
He was still unconscious when the police arrived.
In view of such ineptitude, it is not surprising that in 1978 and 1979, for
example, federal and state officers made arrests in 69 percent of the bank