Disclaimer: This is not an endorsement for robbing banks. If you’re stupid enough to rob banks, chances are you’ll get thrown in prison for several years if you’re lucky—and the rest of your life if you do something like hurt someone. It should go without saying that this is not a viable life choice. No reset button here like GTA.
So, you’ve decided to rob a bank. Last time around I discussed the three methods of robbing banks: 1) using a note; 2) the takeover (the ‘ol “everybody on the floor”); and 3) the modified takeover (where you kidnap a bank president and have them provide access to the vault before the bank opens). There are variations on each method and depending on which one you use, all sorts of bonus charges you can rack up, ranging from kidnapping to assault and whatever other crazy stuff you decide to do. I’ll get into that next time around, but today I’d like to talk about some of the threats you face robbing a bank.
Just like they do with financial transactions, the banks have a number of ways to fuck you over. While it’s been ten years since my last bank robbery job (and just for the record, I didn’t rob a string of banks or I wouldn’t be sitting here at home typing this. I was extraordinarily blessed in only getting less than a four-year sentence AND spending my time in a medium-security facility as opposed to a penitentiary), some of the basics still apply (although you may find things different in major cities). I haven’t kept up on all the countermeasures banks employ, but these should give you some idea as to what bank robbers face. I mention this aspect of bank robbery in my prison memoir Laughing All the Way to the Bank (Robbery): How an Attorney Survived Prison, as well as some tales told to me by other bank robbers.
- Dye Packs: This is one of the all-time classics and like any classic, it’s still around because it’s stood the test of time. The dye pack is simple. The teller hands you a pack of money and you put it in your bag with the “$” sign on it (along with the rest of your loot), race out to your getaway vehicle, and drive away (or run away). The next thing you know, the bag explodes, shooting ink everywhere (and I mean everywhere). If you’re lucky, you don’t get the dye pack that contains the bonus prize of tear gas. Just imagine driving your car with ink everywhere and you choking and tearing up like an asthmatic who just smoked a pack of cigarettes from the reservation. The money is usually destroyed too thanks to the small explosion from the dye pack exploding and the ink. When last I checked (which was a while ago), dye packs can usually be detected because the wad of cash doesn’t bend, hence the bank robber’s maxim “If it bends, it spends.”
- Bait Money: Another thing to watch out for is bait money aka marked money. The good folks over at Wikipedia have a great definition which is:
Bait bills are bills whose serial number is recorded by the bank either by making a copy or by listing in a log book. During a bank robbery, if a robber has taken the bait money, details of this can be passed on to the police. If the money is found in the possession of someone, or used to purchase goods, this can make it easier to find the suspect of the bank robbery.
The problem with bait money is that you can’t tell if it’s bait money when you grab it. Thankfully, there’s a way around this. You might not believe it, but banks want to make your robbery as easy as possible. Years ago, I researched bank robbery for writing purposes and discovered that banks do not want any type of violence to happen during a robbery. Do they care about their employees or clients? I’ll leave that one up to you to decide but I can tell you with 100% certainty that they don’t want to get sued for someone at the bank trying to stop the robbery. Back when I robbed banks, all you had to do was order the teller not to give you dye packs or bait money and they complied.
There are some other things to watch out for, however. One is banks putting tracers in their packs of money. As you probably suspect, the tracers allow the police to get a fix on you and it’s game over (or the next level—the shootout). The reason I always asked for loose bills was to avoid any dye packs or tracers. In some cases, banks have a means of locking you in the bank. This is unlikely to happen because a bank doesn’t want one or more robbers shooting the place up.
In some cases, you may even find a security guard working at the bank. As a kid, I remember a few banks having the stereotypical old-ass man guarding the bank who was armed. Today, most banks only have security guards in high-crime areas where thugs rob the elderly or at banks that are constantly getting hit. Most of the time, the guard is usually a college kid with a yellow vest that reads “security.” They’re unarmed and unlikely to do anything other than walk you out to your car to make sure YOU don’t get robbed leaving the scene of the crime. The security guards are window dressing unless one disobeys the bank’s orders to stay out of the way.
Banks are reimbursed for the cash you steal so they don’t care too much about the robbery. What they do care about is any lawsuit for a robber going ballistic (no pun intended) or Citizen Hero causing a shoot-out as they try to stop you. That’s why the bank has safeguards, but most (if not all) of them are easily avoided if you’re in the know.
Ultimately, there are exceptions to every case and you may find yourself in a bank with a more aggressive policy towards robbers. With any crime, it’s on you and here, I’m only sharing my personal experience (which as I mentioned earlier happened a decade ago).
As always, don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time and you certainly want to avoid prison right now as COVID-19 is likely going to reduce the overcrowding problem in several prison systems and it could start with you.