Move over, Patti Hearst and the strong female characters in the hot film Set It Off: There’s a whole new crop of women bank robbers in the U.S.
In fact, there’s been a spate of bank robberies that have been orchestrated and carried out by women lately, from Florida to Pittsburgh to New Jersey to Palmyra, and everywhere in between.
There are the two women arrested and accused of robbing at least four banks in Houston’s Galleria area last April. There’s the Little Rock woman police say robbed at least two banks in that area just this month. There’s the woman in Atlantic City who liked robbing banks while wearing a bright red, long-haired wig and trench coat. There are many, many more – too many to list in this space.
In fact, the FBI reports that since 2002 there’s been a 25 percent increase in the number of bank robberies committed by women. Women still account for only a fraction of all bank robberies – just over 6 percent, to be exact – but the increase has caught law enforcement by surprise.
But maybe it shouldn’t. After all, bank robbery doesn’t usually require brute strength, or facial hair, or any of your more stereotypically male characteristics. All it requires is some planning, a disguise, perhaps a weapon (or the threat of one), an unhealthy disregard for private property and the social order, a good getaway car or hideout and more balls – er, moxie – than most of us, male or female, would be able to muster in our entire lives.
And although it’s an incredibly difficult crime to get away with (more than three out of four bank robbers eventually are caught and incarcerated), the robber’s risk to personal safety is very slim. Most banks teach employees to comply with robbers’ requests. There’s been a proliferation of banks at locations – like the entrances and exits to interstates — that are convenient to customers (and robbers). In some rural areas, budget cuts have put a deep dent in public safety budgets, so the response time to a crime scene can give a bad guy – or girl – plenty of getaway time.
There’s a twist, though to the old answer to the question of why rob a bank. Not only is it where the money is, as Willie Sutton famously explained. In many of these recent robberies, the women who stand accused or convicted of the crime have little to no criminal history, no red flags pointing to a criminal inclination or history of violence.
What they do have is bills – most of these would-be robbers were facing mountains of debt. Many had recently lost their jobs. Others had documented struggles with mental health concerns. Then again, there are plenty of woman accused of robbing banks who have more traditional histories and motives – even if their gender is a bit of a new element. But robbing a bank, although tempting to some, is a terrible way to balance your household budget. We’re all for equal rights and opportunities, but surely there are better ways to go about it, girls.