Report: Bank Robbery Suspects Increasingly Women

Bank robbery has historically been a man’s game. Even dating back to the days of “Pretty Boy Floyd” and “Baby Face Nelson,” bank robberies generally involved men who organized a hostile takeover of the entire bank, holding up the entire business at gunpoint, forcing managers to open the vaults, taking hostages and engaging in gun battles with police.

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Women, if they were ever involved, usually almost always were accomplices, either driving the getaway car or helping out in some other capacity.

But bank robberies today look very different, and increasingly, it is women who are facing down the charges. The Sun-Sentinel reports this is largely due to the fact that these crimes are no longer as violent as they once were. In fact, it often isn’t necessary to wield a gun or to even necessarily have one. 

Increasingly, all one has to do is pass over a note to the teller. Crime analysts say as the offense has become markedly less violent, more women have been entering the fray – though often for very different reasons than men who commit the same crime.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) reports that about 7.5 percent of all bank robberies in 2015 were committed by women. That’s an increase of 25 percent just since 2005.

The figures provided by the FBI don’t offer a state-by-state breakdown, but there is significant anecdotal evidence to suggest this trend is continuing – if not even more prevalent – here in Florida.

As our robbery defense attorneys in Fort Lauderdale know, a number of recent cases include:

  • A 27-year-old Hollywood woman who is accused of robbing a bank in Miramar just a week shy of another bank robbery in Fort Lauderdale. Hours after the second robbery, she was arrested and is expected to be tried in a West Palm Beach federal court.
  • In Pompano Beach, another 27-year-old woman is accused of committing a bank robbery in mid-June. She was arrested weeks later.
  • In Fort Lauderdale, a third woman who has yet to be identified reportedly held up a Chase bank on June 10th.
  • A 21-year-old woman and two male accomplices were caught after robbing a bank in Lighthouse Point in 2015. Prior to that, the female suspect is believed to have carried out three other bank robberies on her own.

None of these cases involved the stereotypical “takeover” robbery. That’s where a group floods into an establishment, guns drawn and order everyone on the ground. In fact, that kind of operation rarely happens if at all anymore. Increasingly, it’s a single person who blends in with everyday customers. Their true intentions aren’t known until they approach the teller and hand over a note.

As such, the role of women in these cases has evolved from “sidekick” to “boss,” and many are often acting alone on their own accord.

The Sun Sentinel interviewed a number of crime analysts on this growing trend and concluded that while men often rob for greed or simply the thrill of it, women tend to rob banks so they can provide for themselves or their families. Some are homeless or on the verge of being homeless. Some have lost their jobs. Many have young children.

This fact could be used as a mitigating circumstance to argue for a reduced sentence following a conviction, but it’s generally not going to help a defendant avoid a conviction. It could be used in negotiations with prosecutors for an advantageous plea deal, particularly if the defendant is a first-time offender.

Call Fort Lauderdale Criminal Defense Attorney Richard Ansara at (954) 761-4011. Serving Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.

Additional Resources:

Women take lead role in bank robberies as need for weapons, accomplices wanes, July 25, 2016, By Rebeca Piccardo, Sun Sentinel

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Broward Robbery Arrest Made After Suspect Fingerprints Identified, July 10, 2016, Fort Lauderdale Robbery Defense Attorney Blog