U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Robbers on Robbery: Prevention and the Offender

NCJ Number
Date Published
24 pages
Publication Series
This report summarizes the methodology and findings of a field-based study of 86 active robbers, with the objective of determining the ways in which robberies are actually contemplated and committed in real-life settings and circumstances.
Subjects were recruited through the efforts of an ex-offender and a currently active armed robber. Seventy-one percent of the sample reported they had committed more than 10 robberies, and 36 percent admitted to doing 50 or more robberies. A total of 85 percent indicated they typically committed street robberies, with 12 percent reporting they usually committed commercial robberies. The robbers' offenses were broken down into a series of distinct steps: motivation, target selection, and confrontation. The motive for robbery was found to be a pressing need for cash, albeit not for the necessities of survival but mostly for the pursuit of illicit street action such as drinking, drug use, and gambling. The majority of the robbers were chronically poor and went from one financial crisis to the next. The appeal of robbery was the obtainment of quick cash. The availability of hiding places and access for escape were paramount in the selection of targets. In order to ensure that selected victims had plenty of cash, many of the robbers targeted persons whom they knew to be involved in lucrative illegal pursuits, such as drug dealers, customers of prostitutes, and illicit gamblers. Also, such victims were unlikely to report the robbery to the police. Other robbers targeted individuals in areas of check-cashing, ATM's, and entertainment districts. Outward signs of wealth were important in selecting such targets. Most of the robbers approached their victims from behind and quickly pulled their gun. Few indicated a desire to harm their victims, but most were willing to do so to induce cooperation. The announcement of the robbery tended to be brief, forceful, and purposeful, so as to frighten the victim into immediate compliance under the threat of impending death. Given these findings, suggestions are offered for countering and preventing street robberies, such as crime prevention education for potential targets and efforts to promote economic transactions that do not involve cash. 12 references

Date Published: January 1, 1996