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"The Economics of Bank Robbery": Crime doesn't pay, very much.
All of which reminds me of the 1970s bumper sticker: "Crime doesn't pay, but then neither does farming." Dan
Thought this was going to be about how much old west bank robbers supposedly got from their hauls in the 19th century. When reading about some of the hauls the James gang for instance, even the one's it was geographically impossible for them to be involved with, got away with, they must have been the wildest party animals on the planet. Which raises the question, if they were why was it so hard to find them? Sure they paid off a lot of mortgages on family farms and they paid off people who protected them, but did they really get away with "all" the money they were accused of stealing?
I would bet, especially since there is absolutely no way of proving it, that some of those sums were completely fabricated by bank officials who most likely took the opportunity to take a little off the top for their own personal benefit. Why not? A notorious gang of thieves just stole everything out of the safe and robbed all the tellers stations, who's to say the bank president didn't have a drawer full of money or a safe in his office to make private transactions with the more lucrative bank patrons, out of the view of prying eyes.
Anyway, as most people with money that haven't got a clue as to how to use it wisely goes, most robbers that do have a good haul, usually have to go back for more at a later date, because as the old saying goes, money burns a whole in your pocket. People from a poor existence tend to spend money when they get it, but individuals who grow up in families of wealth tend to save or invest it more wisely, when they come into a windfall, since they have been taught/influenced to do so from the environment they grow up in. They are also not needy or trying to prove something to others since they are very comfortable on their own, rarely if ever worried about where their next meal might come from, or struggling to make the rent or mortgage payment coming at the end of the month.
Perfect example is the lottery winners of our day, or well paid young movie/TV stars and jocks, who find themselves with debt problems from the party that was never supposed to end, or owing money to uncle sugar, because they got to carried away with their new found fortunes and forgot to pay their taxes. Then there is that naïve nature where they allowed some unscrupulous accountant/advisor/agent, to take them for everything they were worth, find themselves in the poor house or prison (can you say Wesley Snipes).
In any case robbing a bank today is just a turkey shoot as compared with the old west banks. The reason why most banks up until the 1860's were burglarized rather than robbed in broad daylight because it was easier without the best locks and safes. All the attempts to keep it burglar proof is why gangs started robbing them in broad daylight to begin with.
Mr. Buck and Buck,
Your blog is most interesting.Yes,bank robbery today is very much a losing proposition but many years ago in the old west the chances for a pretty respectable haul and actually getting away with it were much better.Consider the wide open spaces between towns with only the telegraph and /or a fast rider for communication.The telegraph could be sabotaged and clever robbers could and often did get away with the goods.Some gangs depended on the fear and intimidation factor to quell opponents as well.As for the money let's speculate a modest haul of a couple of thousand dollars-we can hardly conceive of the purchasing power of even a single dollar in the 1870's and 80's let alone a larger haul-that was real money!
Most small banks of the period didn't have time locks on their walk in vaults and even if it was locked a good beating and/or the threat of a bullet in the head would usually compel co -operation!Yes ,burglary was often employed to get into vaults as well and a well planned nighttime operation would often leave a very cold trail,rendering apprehension well nigh impossible.
Your point about some bankers possibly falsifying reports of stolen money and pocketing the difference seems rather likely as well,In and age of wide open spaces and rudimentary rapid communication it would be very easy.
Paul Harvey's The Rest of the Story--broadcast in Sept 2009 "Jesse James Income" calculated Jesse made about $1.04 an hour from his robbery escapades..
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