… bread alone – Why Bank Robbers Are Much Poorer Than You Think

Written on:June 12, 2012
Comments are closed

“But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone.”

We love cars; we earn our living from them, we drive as many of them as we can, and we spend far too much of our money feeding our motoring habit but even we have to admit that it is nice to think about other stuff from time to time.

Here is a miscellany of articles, quotes, and stories that have absolutely nothing to do with cars, motoring or driving. We hope that you enjoy them.


The popular image of bank robbers as men of wealth who undertake an occasional blag before disappearing back to Spain to live on the proceeds is a fallacy according to a recent study from the Universities of Sussex and Surrey. Researchers there claim that the average proceeds from a bank robbery committed in the United Kingdom are just £12,706.60 per person, less than half the national average wage of £26,000.

The research, published in Significance the magazine of the Royal Statistical Society and the American Statistical Association, shows that armed bank robbers earn the most per job, although they do take the biggest risks as they face longer prison sentences if caught. Large gangs also net more than small ones with each additional team member netting £9,033.20, although the individual’s share drops as the total must be shared between more people.

Earnings aren’t just low, they’re unpredictable, with one third of bank jobs yielding nothing. And thieves can’t even boost their annual income with multiple raids as they are generally caught and imprisoned after committing just four…

These findings are consistent with other criminological research, including that undertaken by Levitt and Dubner in their best-selling book Freakonomics, in which they answer the question: “Why do drug dealers still live with their moms?” The answer? Because they can’t afford to do anything else.

“Although bank robberies will take place for a number of impulse-related reasons, our evidence suggests that the takings they generate appear to be consistent with economic theory”, said Professor Rickman of the University of Surrey. “This is useful information if we are thinking about how such activity may be combated in the future.”

So what can be done to deter criminals? Well, fast rising screens are the most effective deterrent, reducing the probability of a raid by half. However, they are only fitted in 12 percent of UK banks, probably because the losses incurred by a bank during a robbery are generally lower than the cost of preventative measures to prevent them in the first place. (If you’ve ever come across a more cynical security risk assessment we’d love to hear about it.) Larger numbers of staff and customers don’t deter robbers either, as it seems the banks are chosen at random; so much for carefully selecting them based on the likely reward…

So, far from living a life of riches, glamour and leisure the average bank robber will earn less than minimum wage until he’s caught and locked up after a brief and impoverished career.

This isn’t just interesting, it’s worth remembering the next time you read a Daily Mail scare story about rising criminality in Britain. We fear what we don’t understand and when you understand that drug dealers, gang members, and robbers are generally young, dumb, and living with their mum it becomes harder to demonise them and let fear of them dominate your life.

To misquote a recent controversial advertising campaign: “”THEY’RE PROBABLY NO GOOD, UNSUCCESSFUL IDIOTS. NOW STOP WORRYING AND ENJOY YOUR LIFE.”

Oh, and buy a better newspaper.



Image courtesy of

Article by Carlton Boyce

2 Comments add one

  1. Ash Jones says:

    Yes, but if you are doing 1 job per month at an average of 12K per job…

    What we need is an article about the ideal modern bank robber’s motor. It would need to be faster than the cops but have plenty of room for the robbers, their loot and a decent glovebox to hold packets of ladies tights. The blaggers in The Sweeney usually had Jaaags and I wonder if they would still be suitable more than 20 years on?

    • Staff Writer says:

      Well Ash, I have previously suggested that the Jaguar XFR would have made a far better motor for the new ‘Sweeney’ film than the Focus ST they are using, so using that logic it would be just as good for the blaggers. Not sure how big the glovebox is, although I like the way you’re thinking…