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The Basic Economics of Bank Robberies

September 12, 2014 in Economics

By Joseph Salerno

FBI statistics reveal that over the eight years concluding with 2011, the number of bank robberies in the U.S.  fell dramatically, declining from 7,500 in 2004 to 5,000 in 2011. During the same period the total cash haul from bank robberies dropped even more precipitously from $78 million to $37 million. The sharply downward trend appears to be continuing. In 2012, 3,870 banks were robbed, down from 9,400 in 1991. One causal factor in the decline is the increase in the costs of robbing a bank including better bank security, bullet proof barriers at teller stations, exterior cameras, and more severe criminal penalties. Meanwhile, the benefits of bank robbery have  decreased–thanks in some measure to inflation. According to the FBI a bank robbery averaged a take of $4,000 in 2009, which may not have been sufficient to yield the thieves a positive return on their enterprise. You see, at today’s prices, the robbers would need to expend $4,442 for the guns, bullets, and masks used in a typical bank robbery.

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