Bank Robbery:

The Federal Law Enforcement Role Should Be Reduced

GGD-78-87: Published: Aug 18, 1978. Publicly Released: Aug 18, 1978.

Additional Materials:


Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800

The Federal role in bank robberies is a result of legislation providing punishment for robberies of financial institutions operating under Federal law or with Federal insurance. The legislation was one of a series of antigangster bills directed at crimes perpetrated by organized groups of gangsters who move across State lines in committing crimes. However, Federal law enforcement policy calls for restrictive application of Federal resources in areas of concurrent jurisdiction.

In spite of this policy, the practices of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and U.S. attorneys relating to bank robberies have resulted in a subordinate role for local authorities. In fiscal year 1977, the FBI applied 8.5% of its investigative resources to investigating forcible crimes against financial institutions. This effort was not warranted because bank robberies are not substantially different from robberies of other commercial establishments, bank robbers did not generally use sophisticated methods of operation and few operated beyond the borders of one State, and gang operations were minimal. Solutions to bank robberies indicated that most were accomplished with techniques that could have been performed by local police, and few involved interstate investigations. The FBI does have an advantage in investigating multiple bank robberies committed by a single robber. U.S. attorneys prosecute most bank robbers. The Department of Justice, in 1975, sought to reduce the Federal role by encouraging deferment of prosecutions to local authorities when appropriate. However, U.S. attorneys have continued to prosecute the major proportion of bank robbers and most have not reduced the Federal role. A reduced Federal role would permit more attention to other priorities.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Attorney General should direct the FBI to establish and carry out a plan which would provide that, after a reasonable transition period, FBI involvement in bank robberies would generally be limited to assisting police by serving as a clearinghouse for linking bank robberies in various jurisdictions and aiding in interstate investigations of bank robberies. He should also establish prosecutive guidelines for bank robbery to minimize Federal prosecution except in cases where Federal procedures facilitate prosecution.

    Agency Affected:


Explore the full database of GAO's Open Recommendations »

Mar 20, 2018

Mar 13, 2018

Mar 12, 2018

Feb 15, 2018

Feb 8, 2018

Feb 2, 2018

Jan 8, 2018

Dec 21, 2017

Dec 13, 2017

Nov 6, 2017

Looking for more? Browse all our products here