Saturday, 6 July 2013

Bank Notes, Ken Habarta

Why I read it: Slate Review

Podcasts: None

Brow: While the actual bank robbery notes are about as lowbrow as you can get - one example reads 'no die,' and presumably means 'no dye' as in the indelible ink that foils many an attempt - reading a book of notes used in bank heists puts you into middle-brow territory. On the other hand, you can read this entire book from introduction to appendices in about 30 minutes, so I'm going to split this one down the middle and call it lower-middle brow.

Summary: The subtitle says it all. This is a compilation of notes used in bank robberies, both successful and unsuccessful. Habarta also includes surveillance photos of the robbers, whether they were successful or not, and any available details of the case. At the end he provides some statistics about bank robberies in the US.

What I liked about it: Although the notes are invariably short - the longest one is about 7 lines - they are surprisingly revealing, from the woman who writes 'I went through the Sept. 11 attack, and I'm very angry today. Don't make a sound or everyone is going to die,' to the man who says 'I worked in banks before, so I know there's at least 10 to 15K in each register.' The accompanying photos are also interesting. A surprising number of people make no attempt to disguise themselves beyond a hat, although you wonder how someone wearing a balaclava and sunglasses was allowed into a bank. It's also surprising how low the take is in a bank robbery, considering the penalties. The average is apparently $2000 to $3000, and the lowest in the book is $260, while the highest is a shade over $9000. Finally, we learn that the average robbery takes less than 2 minutes, which is the average police response time for a 'robbery in progress' alarm button.

What I didn't like about it: The book delivers lots of factoids, but it also would have been nice to have the details of each crime beyond when and where it was committed and whether the robber was every caught.

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