Will Bank Robberies Be a Pandemic Side Effect?

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The pandemic could have a new side effect: more bank robberies. So says the acting Comptroller of the Currency, Brian Brooks, in a letter to local and state government associations. Brooks argued that extended economic lockdowns could pose risks to the banking system, reports the Raleigh News & Observer. “Lengthy and potentially permanent requirements that individuals wear face masks in many or even all public spaces create the very real risk of increases in bank robberies,” said Brooks. “Recent reports of face-covering-related robberies at bank branches and other establishments make clear that broadly applicable face mask requirements are not safe or sustainable on a permanent basis.”

Bank robberies have declined rapidly in recent decades, as banks beefed up security measures and the robbers got away with crimes less often. There were 2,735 bank robberies in 2018, down from 7,043 in 2004. In 2013, the total amount stolen from financial institutions in robberies was $33.1 million. Graham Steele, a former Democratic U.S. Senate aide, called the letter “deeply unhelpful” and “an attempt to pressure mayors and governors to re-open their states and cities.” Ryan Radia of the libertarian Competitive Enterprise Institute said, “It’s hard to see how the cost of increased bank robbery comes anywhere close to the expected public health benefit of mask wearing.”

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