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Rob Hornsby and Dick Hobbs

The United Kingdom has seen the rise and subsequent demise of armed robbery by serious and organized criminals. The emergence of armed robbery must be considered within a context of criminal progression forged by the wider political economy and its developments, which shape the opportunities and characteristics of professional criminals. The shift from a cash-based economy towards a credit-constructed economic milieu witnessed the demise of craft crimes such as safe-cracking and the growth of project-based criminality such as armed robbery. The subsequent decline in professional armed robbers attacking banks, post offices, building societies, and cash-in-transit targets can be regarded as the result of control-of-crime strategies and situational crime prevention tactics. There has been increasing use of security measures, including (but not exclusively) within the banking sector, such as in-house closed-circuit television (CCTV), indelible dyes for tainting stolen money, and wider “risk society” measures including, for example, widespread street CCTV, automated number plate recognition, and an increasing shift to credit or debit card transactions. This approach to situational crime control has been successful, leading “elite” professional criminals to seek alternative illicit opportunities and leaving contemporary armed robbers, generally amateurs, deskilled and often desperate individuals.

Article

In this study of how the street robber has been positioned in popular culture, two starkly opposite views are presented on how this figure has been represented: namely, as folk devil and as folk hero. This relatively low-level criminal is involved in criminal activity that delivers low rewards and that is largely inflicted on other poor people. As a result, this robber is on the one hand represented as evil incarnate, a folk devil imagined as posing an existential threat to society and its values. On the other hand, the robber can be positioned as an audacious folk hero, a champion of the downtrodden. This positioning is explored by tracing the changing characterization of the robber over time: notably, the heroic representation of the outlaw in medieval culture, the myths that surrounded the highwaymen of the 18th century, and a more demonic representation by the 19th century, a representation that continues to the present day. While it is no longer possible to conceive of robbers today as folk heroes, many attributes of the heroic robber are still celebrated in popular culture in detective fiction and in RAP music.

Article

Bank robbery is an uncommon, but highly fascinating, type of crime. The media often focus on bank robberies, especially if an event was violent or involved weapons. However, data show that bank robberies are generally uneventful—rarely involving weapon fights or injured bystanders. Instead, perpetrators tend to use verbal or written commands to obtain their money. Movies and video games depict the unusual bank robberies, which are violent and deadly because they are exciting and action-filled, which appeals to the public. Although generally a misrepresentation of empirical reality, media depictions can highlight criminological theory in action and bring to light issues around impulsivity, thrill-seeking, brain development, group behavior, and the behavioral consequences of social strains.