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Just 10 years ago rural banks were considered to be among the safest retail banking locations–evidenced by the fact that, at such locations, one rarely if ever saw bullet proof glass. Today the American Banking Association rates simply having a rural location as an armed robbery risk factor on par with being within 1,000 feet of obvious organized gang activity, or having already endured a robbery or robbery attempt within the preceding 12 months.  According to Total Security Solutions vice president Jim Richards, the combination of several factors make rural banks ideal targets.

Rural Centers Offer a Quick Getaway for Bank Robbers

Over the last decade more than half of all American bank robberies have been evenly split between the south and west–far less urbanized sectors of the country, criss-crossed by long stretches of under-policed expressway. Jim has long wondered why rural bank offices didn’t take security more seriously and invest in bullet proof glass or other measures. “I always figured that the rural areas were probably the easiest targets. You get these banks in towns in the ‘middle of nowhere,’ but they’re still located off of a major highway”–which is another predictor for armed robbery, according to the ABA.

Jim takes a real-world example from his home-state of Michigan, where the I-94 corridor is the primary conduit from Detroit to Chicago. According to law enforcement experts, I-94 is an established and well-traveled conduit for marijuana and cocaine smuggling, with drugs flowing east and cash west.

“So you’re in the ‘middle of nowhere,’ some sleepy town half-way between Kalamazoo and Chicago, and there’s this dramatic armed robbery. It seems to make no sense. But then you look at a map and see that this place is right off of 94. You’ve already got people traveling that corridor who aren’t the most desirable people.” It’s likewise established that criminals favor the easiest targets for armed robbery: understaffed bank locations with no bullet resistant glass and a quick getaway as close as the nearest on ramp certainly fit the bill.

Bullet Proof Glass is Rare in Rural Banks

Urban banks are acutely aware of the threat posed by armed robbers, and well aware of what a great deterrent bullet proof glass is. According to the latest FBI statistics, while almost all banks robbed in 2011 had functional (and often quite visible) alarm and surveillance systems, just 15 percent had installed bullet resistant glass.

Jim explains: “The urban centers have been secured for decades. For example, I couldn’t tell you the last time I did a bank in Detroit. It’s even rare in the [near suburb] of Livonia. Now we’d be installing bullet proof glass farther out, in Novi, 30 miles away.”

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