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Bank Robber Blunders

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Lessons From Idiotic Bank Robbers

According to the FBI, most modern-day bank robberies are “unsophisticated and unprofessional crimes,” committed by young male repeat offenders who apparently don’t know the first thing about their business.

The following list of moronic moves was part of an amusing article titled “How Not to Rob a Bank,” by Tim Clark, which appeared in the 1987 edition of The Old Farmer’s Almanac 2014

Clark reported that despite the widespread use of security camera systems, 76 percent of bank robbers used no disguise, 86 percent never studied the bank before robbing it, and 95 percent made no long-range plans for hiding their loot.

He offered these bullet points of advice to amateur bank robbers; along with examples of what can happen if the rules aren’t followed:

  • Pick the right bank
    Clark advises that you don’t follow the lead of the dumb bank robber in Anaheim, Cal., who tried to hold up a bank that was no longer in business and had no money. On the other hand, you don’t want to be too familiar with the bank. A California robber ran into his mother while making his getaway. She turned him in.
  • Approach the right teller
    Granted, Clark says, this is harder to plan. One teller in Springfield, Mass., followed the stupid crook out of the bank and down the street until she saw him go into a restaurant. She hailed a passing police car, and the police picked him up. Another teller was given a holdup note by a robber, and her father, who was next in line, wrestled the man to the ground and sat on him until authorities arrived.
  • Don’t sign your demand note
    Demand notes have been written on the back of a subpoena issued in the name of a bank robber in Pittsburgh, on an envelope bearing the name and address of a bank robber in Detroit, and in East Hartford, Conn., on the back of a withdrawal slip giving the robber’s signature and account number.
  • Beware of dangerous vegetables
    A man in White Plains, N.Y., tried to hold up a bank with a zucchini. The police captured him at his house, where he showed them his “weapon.”
  • Avoid being fussy
    A bank robber in Panorama City, Cal., gave a teller a note saying, “I have a gun. Give me all your twenties in this envelope.” The teller said, “All I’ve got is two twenties.” The thief took them and left.
  • Don’t advertise
    A holdup man thought that if he smeared mercury ointment on his face, it would make him invisible to the cameras. Actually, it accentuated his features, giving authorities a much clearer picture. Bank robbers in Minnesota and California tried to create a diversion by throwing stolen money out of the windows of their cars. They succeeded only in drawing attention to themselves.
  • Take right turns only
    Avoid the sad fate of the thieves in Florida who took a wrong turn and ended up on the Homestead Air Force Base. They drove up to a military police guardhouse and, thinking it was a tollbooth, offered the security men money.
  • Provide your own transportation
    It is not clever to borrow the teller’s car, because she carefully described the vehicle to the police. This resulted in the most quickly solved bank robbery in the history of Pittsfield, Mass.
  • Don’t be too sensitive
    In these days of exploding dye packs, stuffing the cash into your pants can lead to embarrassing stains, and not to mention severe burns in sensitive places–as bandits in San Diego and Boston painfully discovered.
  • Consider another line of work
    This criminal in Swansea, Mass., who, when the teller told him she had no money, fainted. He was still unconscious when the police arrived.
  • Robbery can lead to death
    One nervous Newport, R.I., bank robber, while trying to stuff his stolen money into his shirt pocket, shot himself in the head and died instantly.