The formal definition of robbery is the taking or attempt to take anything of value from the care, custody, or control of a person or persons by force or threat of force or violence and/or by putting the victim in fear. The short definition of robbery is theft from a person by use of force or fear. The necessary elements of the crime are specific intent, theft from a person, by use of force or fear. The level of force or fear does not have to be great to meet the statutory requirement.
Robberies can occur almost anywhere at anytime, but tend to occur more often in anticipated settings and at expected times. All that is necessary is a motivated robber and an unwilling victim at the wrong place at the wrong time. Robberies can occur in private or public spaces. Robbers and their victims can be friends, relatives, or total strangers. Most robberies involve one robber and one victim and the crime from start to finish lasts less than a minute. Most commercial robbery victims are not injured during the transaction as long as long as they don’t resist. Crime prevention methods differ depending on the setting. See my pages on Convenience Store Security and A Robbery at Wendy's.
Most people think of robberies as those committed against banks (2.1%) or at late-night retail establishments like gas stations, or convenience stores (8.3%) where a gun is used to force the cashier to hand over the money. However, most robberies occur on the street (44.5%), directly against a person, and are called a strong-arm robbery. When someone uses force or fear against you to steal your car, it’s called carjacking. When someone robs you in your home (14.3%) it’s called home invasion robbery. A shoplifter can also commit the crime of robbery if they fight with store personnel who try to stop them.
According to the 2006 FBI Uniform Crime Reports, 447,403 robberies were reported to the police at the rate of one per minute in the United States. This is an increase of 7.2% over 2005. Robberies varied according to region with the Southern States having the highest percentage of 38.3%, the Western States 23.6%, the Northeastern States 18.5%, and the Midwestern States at 19.5%. Robbery rates did not vary drastically from month-to-month, however, August and October had the highest rate with February and April having the lowest rates.
Robbery is largely a big-city crime. In 2006, large metropolitan cities experienced a robbery rate of 173 per 100,000 population compared to a national rate of 149 per capita. Small cities reported a robbery rate of 62 per 100,000 populations, while rural areas had a rate of only 16 per capita. Obviously, population density and the urban setting make a difference in the robbery rate and crime potential.
In 2006, robberies accounted for losses estimates at nearly $539 million, according to the US Department of Justice. Residential home invasion robbery losses averaged $1,469, which might help explain the rise in these crimes. The average dollar loss from a commercial robbery was $1,589, but ranged from $769 in convenience stores to $4,330 at banks. Of course, one of the secrets to preventing commercial robberies is to limit the available cash and let the world know it. Otherwise, you risk getting the word out on the street that your business is a good target and may attract more robbers.
Robbery is a Violent Crime
The weapon of choice for robbers is the firearm (42.2%) with knives or cutting instruments second (8.6%). Strong-arm tactics like punching, pushing, kicking, or threats are used mainly on the street (39.9%). This is due to the opportunistic nature of most street robberies and to some extent because of felony sentence enhancements for those using a weapon during the commission of a robbery. Robbers like to use surprise and an extreme show of force to get victims to comply with their demands. Unfortunately, victims don’t always act appropriately when surprised and frightened and sometimes do things to startle the robber. Robbers are scared to and have been known to injure their victims when this happens.
Robber Arrest Rate
The nationwide robbery clearance rate for cities was a dismal 25.2%. Suburban counties recorded a 30% clearance rate while rural had a better record of 41%. Nationally 14% of robbery clearances were for offenders under eighteen years of age. One reason the arrest rate remains low is because most robbers and victims are strangers and witness identification is often inadequate. More commercial stores and banks are installing video cameras and it's beginning to help. However, the picture quality has been sorely lacking in many cases due to poor equipment maintenance and videotape rotation procedures. New color cameras and digital recorders now being installed, which will make a big difference in picture quality and availability to the police.
In 2006, 61% of all robbery arrestees were under twenty-five years of age. Of those, 90% were males. Blacks accounted for 54% of the total robbery arrests, whites for 44%, and all other races make up the remainder. Violent confrontations have always been a young man’s crime because of the drug connection and need to fight or run away if necessary.
The crime of robbery is mainly a nighttime crime, increasing after 8:00 PM and subsiding after 3:00 AM in most areas. Robberies often increase during the winter months because of extended periods of darkness. Dozens of robbery studies have indicated that robbers like isolation, prefer lone victims, good escape routes, and few witnesses in addition to a good cash score.