The modern reality of bank robberies is typified by the low-key work of the “Mad Hatter,” a New Jersey robber apparently armed only with a threatening note, says the Associated Press. “These days, it’s pretty much pen ablazing on a piece of paper, the guy walking out and nobody knowing, other than the teller,” said FBI agent Steve Siegel in Newark. Despite security, robbers often are able to get away from banks with their pockets full of cash – though perhaps not as much as you’d think. The “Mad Hatter” had an impressive run: 18 banks robbed and more than $60,000 taken over nearly a year.
In Los Angeles, one-fifth of robberies are committed by organized gangs that take over an entire branch. Acts of violence are committed in about 5 percent of bank robberies. In 6,000 to 7,000 bank robberies per year, about 20 people get killed. Most often, it’s the robbers themselves. One issue is “bandit barriers” – bulletproof glass that separates the customers from the tellers. Commerce Bank, based in Cherry Hill, N.J., bills itself as “America’s Most Convenient Bank.” It’s the most robbed bank in New Jersey. The bank refuses to install bandit barriers, preferring “to provide a kind of service that is a personal touch,” said a spokesman. Most bank robbers make off with not much more than $1,000, a small reward for big risks. The minimum federal penalty for displaying a gun in one robbery is seven years; use a gun in two robberies and the minimum jumps to 32 years.