In past recessions, statistics show that the number of bank robberies generally increase with every downturn in the economy. However, the latest FBI report indicates that the number of bank robberies committed across the United States decreased 20% last year to a level not seen in at least a decade. The statistic is surprising in light the deepest recession since the "Great Depression" which has caused the unemployment rate to rise. Banks and law enforcement agencies expected the levels of robberies to increase as people became more desperate to obtain money. Even in the hardest hit cities from the economy such as Miami, Los Angeles and Detroit have also seen the steady decline.
According to statistics supplied by the FBI, only 5,500 bank robberies occurred in 2009, which is down approximately 18% from the previous year. U.S. Department of Justice records indicate that the number of indictments handed down in federal court for bank robbery charges reached a 10 year low. Law enforcement authorities believe that the new tactics used by law enforcement such as tracking offenders by satellite are responsible for the decrease in the violent crime. "With the economy, we expected an increase, but we have not seen robberies in which the motive was that a person got laid off and needed the money," said Brad Bryant, head of the FBI's violent crime unit. Most of the individuals caught up in bank robberies are motivated by drug abuse or gambling debts, with limited ties to being unemployed.
Miami banks have implemented a sophisticated measure in an effort to catch bank robbers. Banks give robbers cash that has a global positioning system "GPS" tracking device which allows law enforcement to track the robbers with a lap top computers from their police vehicles. In Arizona, billboards post high-quality photographs of perpetrators within minutes of the commission of a bank robbery. Law enforcement credits these new tools with reducing the number of bank robberies.
One wonders if the technological advances have led to the decrease or the new laws that the State of Florida enacted regarding gun charges. The State of Florida and Miami-Dade County have spent countless dollars and man hours educating the public regrading the 10-20-Life laws implemented earlier in the decade. Anyone committing a crime in possession of a firearm is subject to a mandatory prison sentence of 10 years. Any committing a crime and discharging a firearm in the commission of a crime is subject to a mandatory prison sentence of 20 years. Anyone discharging a firearm where someone is actually shot in the commission of an offense faces up to life in prison. Despite the harsh penalties, a skilled Miami criminal attorney is able on many occasions to have the mandatory sentences waived. However, offense committed with firearms generally score high under the Florida Sentencing Guidelines which still subject violent offenders to long prison sentences.
Despite Recession, Bank Robberies Dropped in 2009, USA Today, January 19, 2010.