An armored car robbery is a type of criminal activity where robbers forcibly remove cash or valuables from a vehicle designed for the safe transport of such goods. A typical armored car robbery, which can occur when the vehicle is stationary or in transit, involves multiple perpetrators, usually masked and armed, who overpower or intimidate the car’s operators and take the valuables. Armored car robberies are a rare type of crime and often end in violence.
The typical armored car robbery occurs in one of two ways. The most common incidence happens when the vehicle is parked a business and transferring valuables to the business from the car or to the car from the business. Thieves often surprise the car’s attendants, hold them at gunpoint or incapacitate them, and take the valuables. A second type of armored car robbery involves stopping the vehicle in transit after it has loaded valuables. Robbers have used explosives and tear gas to force the vehicle’s crew out, where they typically are restrained while the valuables are taken.
It is common for armored car robbers to study a car’s movements over time in advance of the event. Robbers then typically steal a car in which to approach the armored car and abandon the stole vehicle after the heist. The perpetrators typically mask their faces. Armored car robberies have occurred outside banks, automated teller machines, jewelry stores, casinos and large retailers among other businesses.
Armored car robberies are rare. A survey of seven counties in California, for example, showed nine armored car robberies over a two-year period in 2008 and 2009. During that same period, there were more than 800 bank robberies in the same geographic area. In about 40 percent of armored car robberies, the perpetrators are not caught.
These types of robberies can often involve physical violence. In an armored car robbery, it is typical for both the robbers and those being robbed to be armed, which experts say increases the chances of injury. One survey of 112 armored car robberies in the U.S. indicated that 123 armored car guards were killed.
Some robberies do not fit any category. In one instance, perpetrators broke into the warehouse of an automated teller machine company, loaded cash into an armored car and then escaped in the car. A Seattle, Washington, robber overpowered an armored car guard with pepper spray to his face, took a bag of money, and then escaped on an inner tube down a creek near the scene. In another robbery in Washington state, the robber escaped using scuba gear.