Economists’ advice for bank robbers

When economists train their sights on robbers, the point traditionally is to study those who loot on the grandest, most legal scale and who are called “financiers”, and also (if there be consulting fees) to assist those persons.

Economists Barry Reilly [pictured here] of the University of Sussex, and Neil Rickman and Robert Witt of the University of Surrey, went against that tradition. They stole a hard look at the lowest class of bank robbers, the ones who physically go into bank branches, grab cash, and literally leg it. Reilly, Rickman and Witt got access – exclusive and confidential access, they proudly confide – to data from the British Bankers’ Association about bank robberies. Recently they published a study called Robbing Banks: Crime Does Pay – But Not Very Much….

So begins this week’s Improbable Research column in The Guardian.