6

This question has been living in my mind without an answer for a pretty decent while and im just wondering, Can you withdraw from a bank that has been "Robbed"? Or would law enforcement keep it shut down until more money went to the bank?

13
  • 1
    How can you withdraw money from a bank that has no money? Mar 25, 2021 at 17:11
  • 4
    One word; credit. I guess two words; credit and insurance.
    – quid
    Mar 25, 2021 at 17:16
  • 11
    It's your question. Make up your mind as to whether only some cash was stolen from the bank or all of it stolen. Pick one, you'll have your answer. :->) Mar 25, 2021 at 17:39
  • 4
    Bank robberies don't really happen anymore like the movies portray them. They're usually some idiot who writes a demand note on the back of his own deposit slip and runs away with whatever the teller gives him (complete with dye pack). If a bank has, say, $500,000 in mixed bills, that's quite a bit to lug out the door on your own, so it isn't really practical to try taking it all unless you have a "crew", but that's not how most robberies go down.
    – RiverNet
    Mar 25, 2021 at 18:37
  • 15
    Why supposedly? And why quotes around robbed? Are you thinking a branch falsely claimed to be robbed, but you can prove they weren't because people could withdraw money? Mar 26, 2021 at 5:16

6 Answers 6

29

In the U.S., the average "take" from a bank robbery is around $6,500 according to the FBI, so I doubt a robbery would so severely deplete the bank's cash holdings that it couldn't continue to service customers.

Here's a Washington Post article on it: A quintessentially American crime declines: Robbing banks doesn't pay as it used to.

That being said, the bank could be closed for several days as a crime scene if nothing else, so I'd suggest going to a different branch.

7
  • 18
    Freakonomics claims that most banks would not be robbed if they had another security guard at each branch, but the average annual loss to robbery is less than the salary of another guard. Mar 26, 2021 at 14:12
  • 6
    @Michael Sounds very plausible. The linked article claims that the yearly grand total of robberies is just $28M for the entire US, while there likely are thousands of branches.
    – TooTea
    Mar 26, 2021 at 14:52
  • 8
    @TooTea I'd add to that naked cash-loss-figure ($26.3M/year) a multiple, for mental health costs of traumatized staff and/or customers, loss of morale, loss of reputation/earnings/customer confidence, ... . [Then it might become worth it.] Maybe actual trauma cost relatively low as staff trained to say "I don't care, I won't play the hero, it's insured and not my money, please take it all". Mar 26, 2021 at 14:59
  • @TypeIA There's a reference for the 1980s-1990s in JimmyJames' comment to another answer, but I don't know if it's still true. But this last year has been crazy, so maybe it has come back? Mar 26, 2021 at 15:40
  • @TypeIA, it's something I read online last year I think, but I don't recall where. Since you pointed it out though, I'll retract my comment on it! (smile) Thanks for keeping me honest!!!
    – RiverNet
    Mar 26, 2021 at 15:43
8

A bank robbery would rarely rob every last dime, so the bank will still have some money; and typically they could also relocate cash from other nearby branches. The overall loss is usually covered by insurance anyway.

However, after a robbery, the crime scene will be locked down for potentially days, and then the bank might need to repair things that got broken or shot, clean up (blood?), etc.; I wouldn’t expect the robbed branch to reopen for at least a week.

You are obviously better off driving to another ATM or branch.

4
  • 8
    In the US, at least, I have the impression that bank robberies are kept pretty quiet as to not encourage copycats. In the 80's and 90's in LA multiple banks were robbed every day. Part of that, is getting the bank open quickly. Most bank robberies involve only threats of violence, often the robbers have no weapon, just a note. I think in a lot of cases these robberies happen without the awareness of other customers. Most are not like "Heat" or "Bonnie and Clyde".
    – JimmyJames
    Mar 25, 2021 at 17:28
  • 4
    I think there is no need to keep it intentionally quiet. Robbing a bank simply is no longer attractive with time-based locks for opening the safe. This is why robbing a bank returns so little money, there simply is none available fast. There is no threat or application of violence that can give access to the money faster, so to get an average worker's salary one needs to rob a bank like every 6 weeks. This simply does not pay out over the long term
    – Manziel
    Mar 26, 2021 at 10:28
  • Unless there was violence, which there rarely is, I wouldn't expect the branch to be closed for more than a single day. Processing the crime scene is mainly just a matter of interviewing witnesses and retrieving video. And even if there was violence, now we'd be talking maybe two days. I can't imagine what law enforcement would spend an entire week doing. Mar 26, 2021 at 15:49
  • @CareyGregory yep, if not the same day sometimes. Real life bank robberies are rarely like the movies.
    – eps
    Mar 26, 2021 at 17:25
7

Most of the value in the bank accounts is loaned out for mortgages, car loans and the like, so it doesn't physically exist in the bank.

The amount that can't be loaned is split between the central bank and cash on hand in each of the branches. The part in the central bank it is act as a reserve and to allow the transfer of funds between banks. The cash at the bank branch is used to handle the day to day transactions.

The cash on hand is the only thing that can be stolen by a physical robbery.

The impact to the customers:

  • Customers needing to get into that branch to perform a transaction will be prevented as long as it is an active crime scene.
  • Customers needing cash from that branch, will have to go to another branch until they arrange for a transfer of cash to that branch.
  • People performing transfers via the computer interface won't be impacted.
  • People writing paper checks won't be impacted.
  • People getting money from an ATM won't be impacted, unless the ATM is at that branch. That one will return to service when the police allow it, or when it gets refilled.

Because the cash on hand is only a small portion of the value of the accounts, it shouldn't impact the daily operations of the bank. The cash on hand isn't assigned to individual accounts, so nobody has they checking account drained by the robbery.

5

Banks have very, very little cash at the branches where customers go. And not much more anywhere else. The amount of money a robber could get, even by taking every last physical cent out of a bank, plus all the cash all the customers have, just doesn't really add up to much. Probably less than $100k in most cases.

1
  • 3
    This is more or less correct -- I used to work as a bank teller at multiple branches of a small-to-medium regional bank. Typical vault cash holdings varied between $100k and $300k. Cash was delivered to and from the federal reserve bank via armored truck on a roughly weekly basis to maintain those amounts.
    – Tristan
    Mar 26, 2021 at 16:13
1

Another angle on the question: Legally, when you put money in your bank account, you're making a loan to the bank corporation. The bank is obliged to repay this loan, according to the terms of the account-holder agreement. That obligation doesn't go away if a thief steals all the cash in the vault. In fact, that's part of the value the bank provides you in exchange for the loan: they assume the risk of theft and the expense of protecting against theft.

In the worst case, where the bank is left so completely out of money that it can't continue in business, a "deposit insurance" agency will step in and pay back each depositor. (This is far more likely to happen as a result of the bank making lots of bad loans, than theft.)

0

Banks usually keep most of their cash in a time-locked safe. This is a safe that can only be opened after a long delay, say 30 minutes at least, with no override. This is fine for the bank, since they will probably never need to move cash in or out with less than 30 minutes notice during normal operation, but bad news for a robber. A robber can threaten the bank staff all they want, no one can open the safe faster than the time delay allows, and that gives the police plenty of time to show up if a robber tries to wait around for it.

Most robbers are going to want to get in and get out before the police have a chance to arrive. That means the most a robber can hope to get is the money that's in the till at the counter, but that's only a small fraction of what the bank actually has. They only need enough up front to cover the relatively small withdrawals they expect customers to make on a given day. The rest stays in the safe.

I'd imagine after a robbery a bank would shut down for a short while just because it is a crime scene and they would likely want to give their staff time off to recover from the shock of being robbed (having a gun waved in your face is pretty unnerving even if no one is hurt). But technically they would have the ability to return to normal operation in short order by getting more cash out of the safe and getting back to serving customers.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .