Your heart must bleed for bank robbers in the UK. Turns out these professionals in their high stress jobs earn far less per annum than your average wage-earner who attends office daily and whose biggest criminal act is stealing a paper clip or two from his work table. Honesty is not only the best moral policy, it is the best fiscal policy too.
Worse follows for the ‘hold ’em up’ brigade. According to a study published in the magazine of the Royal Statistical Society, not only are bank robbers under-paid, they are also forced to leave everything and run away empty handed at least once in three attempts. A success rate of 33 and a third percent, and nothing to show for it at the end of the year – no wonder bank robbers are turning away from crime and taking up less dangerous professions like spotting unexploded mines in war zones.
The nature of an unlisted profession like bank robbery is such that forming an association for superior bargaining powers or to take advantage of group benefits is not easy. Like golf and nose-picking, it is long and lonely work. At the psychological moment, you are alone, even if your wife’s brother is scheduled to drive the getaway car and your nephew has tagged along because there is strength in numbers.
Every heist increases your chances of getting caught, and the balance sheet at the end of the year shows only around twelve thousand pounds as income. The average income of the fully employed is around twenty-six thousand pounds. You do the math.
It is unlikely that latter-day teams of Bonnie and Clyde have worked out that the straight and narrow is more profitable than a life of masks and guns and false number plates. Perhaps the authorities should replace all those ‘Wanted’ posters with posters of the Cost Benefit Analysis of a bank robbery. Prevention, as a bank robber once nearly said, is better than cure.
What is it these days about those who live on the other side of the law? Bank robberies are no longer a priority in the Czech Republic, for example. There, a gang of thieves dismantled a 10-tonne steel pedestrian bridge and made off with it.
The market for steel bridges not being very encouraging, the whole exercise - the pedestrian bridge was part of a derelict local railway line infrastructure linking the western Czech villages of Loket and Horni Slavkov – was in aid of scrap. It is depressing to know that in Europe derelict old bridges fetch more than crisp new cash bills, and that’s a commentary on our times. Even so, the 10-tonner cost a mere $6,150; was it worth the effort?
I mean, first of all there is location scouting and the transportation costs involved with that. Then there is the business of forging papers so in case a passing policeman asks what you are up to, you can claim you are clearing everything for a cycle path (this did, indeed, happen). You have to get uniforms, which unfortunately cannot be sponsored like the jerseys of footballers, because bridge dismantling is not yet an Olympic sport. This group of intrepid dismantlers also had to scoop out some 200 metres of railway track using – further expenses here – a crane.
The ‘fence’ – whose day job might be receiving stolen goods such as jewellery or computers – has to reset his sights and work out if a client needs a used railway bridge. There are so few true used railway bridge enthusiasts in the world, after all. It is not as if you can take it to an auction house and watch billionaires bid against each other like they would a Damien Hirst or a Jeff Koons work.
A rough calculation shows the expenses for the whole dismantling exercise would be $6,149, leaving one dollar as profit at the end of it. We may be dealing with the pure artist here, someone who steals for the same reason that others climb Mount Everest – because it is there.
For their next caper, I suggest they leave a collection box nearby. Then, passersby can nod at the artistic calling of the dismantlers and show their appreciation for the purity of their intent by putting a few dollars into the box. That way, both art and commerce are satisfied.