Bank robbery, in general, is crime of volume. Less than five percent of thieves crack the safe. The great majority, focused on getting out of the building as quickly as possible, target the money with the tellers at the counter. The average take of a bank robbery is $4,000. The big money, as history has shown, goes to the bandits who master the criminal art and execute a steady string of heists.
Volume was certainly the strategy of the bank robber suspected of striking seven banks across New York City within three days last week. This man’s aim, however, did not appear to be big money. The note he handed tellers demanded just $100.
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“Give me 100,” the note read, the New York Post reported.
Yet even such a modest robbery attempt did not guarantee success. As we noted in our May feature story about a $200,000 heist, there is an illusion of ease to the idea of robbing a bank. This robber learned the lesson first hand.
The spree began on Monday afternoon, at a Bank of America in Washington Heights. From there, according to the NYPD, the robber moved south down the west side over the next 90 minutes, hitting a Capital One on 181st Street, then a Chase on 93rd, then a Citibank near Columbus Circle.
At each location, he gave the teller the “Give me 100” note. At three of the banks, the teller refused to give him any money, and he left with nothing. At one of the Manhattan banks, he fled with $50.
He found slightly more success in the Bronx, where he went following the failed Columbus Circle attempt. He stole $400 from a Chase in Bedford Park.
Surveillance footage appeared to show that the same man was behind all four attempts. He was heavyset, with a beard, and he wore a Cincinnati Reds cap and a red shirt.
Around noon on Wednesday, a man who fit that physical description walked into a Bank of America in the Norwood neighborhood of the Bronx and attempted to rob it. The teller did not give over any money and the man left.
Less than an hour later, the same man tried to rob a Citibank on the Upper West Side and, again, left with nothing.
So the robber had targeted seven banks and gotten money from two. This is an unusually high failure rate. Around ten percent of bank robbers fail to exit the building with any money, according to Department of Justice statistics.
But failure can come not long after exiting the building too. Half of bank robberies are solved within 30 days. A third are solved on the same day of the crime.
On Wednesday afternoon, shortly after the unsuccessful Citbank robbery, police arrested 34-year-old Jamaal Valentine for the seven robbery attempts.
According to the Post, police had identified his fingerprint on one of the demand notes and then tracked his location through his cellphone. He was on parole for a bank robbery conviction. Upon arrest, he allegedly told police that he needed the money to pay his rent.