When it comes to policing success stories, bank robberies are up there. The gun-toting gangs of balaclava-clad crooks storming counters to grab bags of cash have all but vanished.
Figures show that in the past 10 years the rate of armed robberies has fallen more than 85 per cent. In 2000, there were 213 bank robberies in NSW. This compares with 31 in 2010, according to the Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research.
The head of the Robbery and Serious Crime Squad, Superintendent Luke Moore, said the typical bank robber has also changed, with the most perpetrators being ”one-out” and carrying out the crime for pure opportunity. However, the motive remains the same.
”It’s almost always, without exception, about money – but what that money’s being used for is more about lifestyle, living it up, partying, even on some occasions spending money on their families,” Superintendent Moore said.
In the late 1980s and ’90s, drugs and addiction to heroin in particular, fuelled the burgeoning bank busts.
”Sure, it’s still about drugs, and financing a drug addiction, but more and more, it’s about partying,” Superintendent Moore said.
The ”significant” decline was due to a variety of factors, he said, but a major one was the increasing risk to robbers as the financial industry worked harder to make their assets less accessible.
Pop-up screens, dye bombs, the prevalence of CCTV now provide not only major deterrence, but also effective investigative tools.
”They don’t have the opportunity they once did,” Superintendent Moore said, adding that DNA and fingerprint technology had also been a significant help to investigators.
Police have observed a steep decline in the ”degree of organisation” of bank robberies, with criminal gangs now focusing on other endeavours.
A man recently robbed a bank in Sydney’s north with his girlfriend as his getaway driver. The crime did not yield any cash, but the man accidentally shot himself in the leg. Superintendent Moore said more recent examples of bank robberies involved one or two offenders, with little or no planning or organisation, taking on a job fuelled by an immediate opportunity.
Robberies of licensed venues have also dropped, though not at the same rate as banks. In 2000, there were 349 armed robberies on pubs, clubs and bottle shops, compared with 232 last year. ”Licensed premises jobs are still prevalent, but we are working with the industry [such as the Australian Hotels Association and Clubs NSW] on a process called hardening targets,” he said. Criminals have been getting away with less cash because venues have tightened procedures around keeping and moving their cash takings.
The chief executive of ClubsNSW, Anthony Ball, said clubs had put a lot of work into making their venues safer, such as having fewer points of entry and ensuring cars cannot be driven through the front door. ”That simply wasn’t the case at some clubs a decade ago,” he said. ”More clubs also have panic buttons, CCTV and a direct line to local police.”
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