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8:46 AM Mon, Jan. 21st

Column: A few notes on bank robberies

Two alleged bank robbers were arrested by the Kingman Police Department a few days apart last week and the town's buzzing, with the primary sentiment being, it's Christmastime. Bank robberies always go up this time of year.

Well, they do and they don't, according to the FBI, but one fact is certain: The anatomy of a bank robbery has become almost predictable, pedestrian and pattern-centric.

Bank heists don't enthrall the public these days like they did in the Old West and again during the Great Depression.

After all, most modern bank robbers pen a short, grammatically hopeless note to the teller demanding money. They get the cash in short order, walk out and disappear - for a while, anyway.

The Dalton Gang would never do something so civilized. Jesse James would as soon take tea with the ladies of the garden club than write a note announcing his intention to part a bank from its money.

John Dillinger would not consider a bank robbery a success if somebody didn't get shot. Baby Face Nelson enjoyed scaring the heck out of people when he robbed banks, wildly firing his submachine gun into all kinds of flesh as he made his getaway. Baby Face was mean mainly because he hated being called Baby Face.

The majority of modern bank robbers, alas, have chosen function over form and they write the note. And why not?

Banks have been fairly passive in recent years and the so-called note job seems to work pretty well, even if most bank robbers net just a few thousand dollars. Only a fool would risk years in prison for that kind of money, but a lot of money can be made.

In the FBI's Bank Crime Statistics for 2011, the latest year, there were 5,014 bank robberies in the U.S. The note method was used in roughly 3,000 of them.

Loot was taken in more than 4,500 of those robberies. A lot of loot. According to the FBI, more than $38.3 million was stolen in those 4,500 bank robberies - in addition to 60 burglaries and 12 larcenies.

How much of the loot was recovered? Slightly more than $8 million. That leaves about $30 million unaccounted for.

More than 6,000 people participated in those 5,000 robberies and the FBI identified slightly more than half of them.

Infamous bank robber Willie Sutton never said he robbed banks because "that's where the money is."

A less than ethical reporter came up with the quote and attributed it to Sutton. Clearly, however, bank robbers in his day did rob banks because that's where the money was, and money could buy a few months of the high life.

Modern bank robbers also have a penchant for the high life. That's why the majority of them, according to the FBI, rob banks for drug money, so they can live the high life.

Other interesting facts about bank robberies:

The most popular time for a robbery is between 3 and 6 p.m. on Fridays, when slightly more than 1,000 of the 5,000 2011 robberies occurred. Oddly, bank robbers seem to prefer morning robberies on Mondays and Tuesdays and afternoon robberies Wednesday through Saturday.

Saturdays are the slowest day of the week for bank robberies.

Unfortunately, not all bank robberies are nonviolent affairs.

In 2011, 13 people were killed and 88 injured in 201 of the 5,000 bank robberies, according to the FBI.

There were 70 shootings, one explosive and 116 assaults. Of the 13 deaths, 10 were the bad guys, two were law enforcement officers and one was a bank guard.

Of the 50 states, the overwhelming majority of bank robbers apparently enjoy California weather. My evidence is that in 2011, according to the FBI, our neighbor to the west was home to 687 of the 5,000 bank heists.

With 210 bank robberies, Arizona ranked second in the 11 Western states plus Alaska and Hawaii.

There is no evidence, however, to suggest that December is busier for bank robbers and the FBI than it is other months of the year.

Why would there be? Rare is the bank robber who is motivated by putting something under the Christmas tree for their adored and adoring children. They don't pay off student loans with that money, or fund a child's cancer treatment.

And the two men recently arrested in Kingman? If convicted, they can not only expect to do more time behind bars than most all other criminals - they can expect to spend their prison terms in a much harsher environment than one would expect for a note job.