Bank holdups in the Chicago area are happening, quietly and by the dozens–and more than twice as often as last summer, reports the Chicago Tribune. The 42nd robbery at a Chicago bank since June 1 was reported yesterday. There were 19 over the same period last year. Most real-world bank robberies aren’t like the movies, where masked men storm into a bank wielding guns, screaming at customers while they empty the bank vault. Robbers are more likely to pass a note to a teller, who quietly gives up the cash while customers continue to do business nearby.
Some of the recent Chicago robbers wore disguises like painters’ clothes, a sheriff’s uniform, a nylon stocking over the face. Others just walked in as themselves and handed a note to a teller. Bank robberies occur in spurts; the FBI doesn’t speculate about why the number of robberies is going up or down. The average take is about $2,000 and most bank robbers get caught. The FBI says its solution rate is about three out of every four robberies. A conviction on one count of robbery carries a sentence of up to 20 years in federal prison. Why are people still holding up banks? “It’s very much an act of desperation,” said Troy Evans, a convicted bank robber who shares his experiences on the speaker circuit. Evans, who lives in Arizona, said he talked to 300 convicted bank robbers during his seven-plus years in a federal prison in Colorado. The common theme was a desperation for money–to finance a drug habit or to repay a debt. Most people who rob banks don’t see another way out.