ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
Nowadays, when we think of banks and larceny, we typically think of flimflam securities on the books or bonuses paid to executives who managed to lose billions. So, today's headline in the New York Times is both scary and almost quaint - "Five Banks Are Robbed In Single Day In The City." Bank robberies are on the rise, but five in one day? Reporter Anahad O'Connor wrote the Times story and joins us from New York. Is five an unofficial record?
Mr. ANAHAD O'CONNOR (Reporter, The New York Times): So far, it seems that way.
SIEGEL: What was it like as these robberies were being reported?
Mr. O'CONNOR: You know, it was definitely a little surreal because usually - I mean, last year, there was less than one a day. You know, sometimes we hear about these bank robberies - you get an alert, you know, from the police scanner saying, you know, robber, you know, police are in pursuit. So, we got one just shortly after nine a.m., there was a beep. And then 20 minutes later, another beep, and then the beeps just kept on coming and it was like, OK. Suddenly, it's a free-for-all out there. It's like the Wild West.
SIEGEL: And this confirms a trend, that bank robberies are on the rise in New York City and elsewhere, I gather?
Mr. O'CONNOR: Yeah, in New York City, they're up about 54 percent this year. And actually, across the country, we're seeing an increase in pretty much every major city from Los Angeles to San Francisco. In Jackson, Mississippi there were more bank robberies in the first quarter of this year than there were all of last year. So, there's definitely a surge.
SIEGEL: Now, as I'm about to ask you why, I can hear the answer because that's where the money is, as a famous bank robber once said. But do people associate this with hard times - that there's less money around, more desperate people?
Mr. O'CONNOR: Yeah, it seems like there's a couple of things. I mean, looking at history, we always see a surge in bank robberies across the country during recessions. There was a really huge surge back during the '91 recession. There was another one in the early 2000s, during that economic slowdown. And now, we're seeing it, again. But there's also a second element. We typically see increases in bank robberies during the holidays, and it seems like there's some added pressure with all the shopping and just constant thought of materialism.
SIEGEL: By the way, one out of five robberies thwarted on the spot. Are these cases commonly closed at any reasonable rate, or do most bank robbers get away with it?
Mr. O'CONNOR: You know, even though this is one of the only crimes that's on the rise in New York City this year, bank robbers generally tend to have a pretty low success rate. It's something like 65 percent of all bank robbers are eventually caught. And a large reason is that so many of them are caught on camera.
SIEGEL: And what sort of hauls did the robbers get away with in these robberies yesterday?
Mr. O'CONNOR: Well, we know one was about 3,000. The others, they didn't release many details on.
SIEGEL: But in this case, we're not talking about record-setting bank heists here?
Mr. O'CONNOR: No. I mean, last year, for example, the average haul was something like $4,000. But that was mostly skewed because there was one really big heist last year where two guys got away with $100,000. But those two were actually caught, I should add, by the way.
SIEGEL: Were firearms used in these robberies?
Mr. O'CONNOR: You know, there was at least one or two guns. There was another guy who claimed to have a gun, but it turns out that he probably didn't. So, it looks like most of them are note jobs and there was - we're sure there was at least one gun.
SIEGEL: Is "note job" a term of art in the bank robbery business?
Mr. O'CONNOR: Oh, sorry, that's kind of a cop term.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. O'CONNOR: Much like perp for perpetrator, and yeah, there's a whole lingo.
SIEGEL: Anahad O'Connor, a reporter for The New York Times, thanks a lot for talking with us today.
Mr. O'CONNOR: Thanks for having me.