Desperate times call for desperate measures. By this logic, an economic downturn should see a rise in financial crimes. The European Central Bank, for example, recently reported a multi-year high in counterfeiting.

In the US, however, the Federal Bureau of Investigation has been reporting a steady fall in the number of bank robberies over the past year. In the third quarter of 2009—the most recent data available—the number of robberies, burglaries and larcenies at banks fell for the third consecutive quarter.

Violations in the first nine months of 2009, at just over 4,000, were down 10% on the previous year. Criminals also made away with less: US$30.5m last year versus US$41.1m the year before. Finally, this lighter haul was more likely to be seized by the authorities, who recovered 19% of last year’s loot, up on the 15% share recovered from 2008’s heists.

Even if robberies continue to fall, the risk averse should aim to avoid visiting bank branches on Fridays between 9:00 and 11:00am, the most popular time for holdups. During normal weekday office hours, the FBI’s data shows that Thursdays between 3:00 and 6:00pm are the safest bet.

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