The formal definition of robbery is the taking or attempt to take anything of value from the care, custody, or control of a person or persons by force or threat of force or violence and/or by putting the victim in fear. The short definition of robbery is theft from a person by use of force or fear. The necessary elements of the crime are specific intent, theft from a person, by use of force or fear. The level of force or fear does not have to be great to meet the statutory requirement.
Robberies can occur almost anywhere at anytime, but tend to occur more often in anticipated settings and at expected times. All that is necessary is a motivated robber and an unwilling victim at the wrong place at the wrong time. Robberies can occur in private or public spaces. Robbers and their victims can be friends, relatives, or total strangers. Most robberies involve one robber and one victim and the crime from start to finish lasts less than a minute. Most commercial robbery victims are not injured during the transaction as long as long as they don’t resist. Crime prevention methods differ depending on the setting.
Most people think of robberies as those committed against banks (2.3%) or at late-night retail establishments like gas stations, or convenience stores (10%) where a gun is used to force the cashier to hand over the money. However, most robberies occur on the street (43%), directly against a person. When a gun or other weapon is involved, it is an armed robbery. When someone uses physical force against you to take a wallet or purse, it is called a strong-arm robbery. When someone uses force or fear against you to steal your car, it’s called carjacking. When someone robs you in your home (14%) it’s called home invasion robbery. A shoplifter can commit the crime of robbery if they fight with store personnel who try to stop them.
The number of robberies has increased dramatically over the last few years in Shorewood. Robberies in Shorewood have almost doubled since 2001. In 2006, there were 17 reported robberies in Shorewood. That is about the same number of robberies that occurred in the City of Appleton in Northeast Wisconsin; a city of over 70,000 people.
Robbery: A Violent Crime
The weapon of choice for robbers is the firearm (42%) with knives or cutting instruments second (9%). Strong-arm tactics like punching, pushing, kicking, or threats are used mainly on the street (40%). This is due to the opportunistic nature of most street robberies and to some extent because of felony sentence enhancements for those using a weapon during the commission of a robbery. Robbers like to use surprise and an extreme show of force to get victims to comply with their demands. Unfortunately, victims don’t always act appropriately when surprised and frightened and sometimes do things to startle the robber. Robbers are scared too and have been known to injure their victims when this happens.
The crime of robbery is mainly a night time crime, increasing after 8 p.m., and subsiding after 3 a.m., in most areas. Robberies often increase during the winter months because of extended periods of darkness, however, robberies can and do happen at anytime of day Dozens of robbery studies have indicated that robbers like isolation, prefer lone victims, good escape routes, and few witnesses in addition to an easy cash score.
Victim of Robbery Tips
If you are a victim of robbery, follow these tips:
- Take no action which would jeopardize your personal safety. The cash in your wallet or credit cards in your purse are not worth getting hurt over. If the robber tells you he is armed, believe him. If the robber displays a gun, consider it to be real and loaded.
- Cooperate fully with the robber. Give the robber exactly what he asks for, no more or no less. If you have to open drawers or make any moves, explain these moves to him. Example: "I am opening this drawer now because this is where the large bills are kept", or, "I'm just reaching for my wallet." Do all actions slowly; sudden moves may panic the robber.
- Observe the robber. Look the robber in the eye and repeat his looks to yourself as you see them. Start at the top and work down remembering as many characteristics as you can. Try to remember the height of the robber and what type of build the robber had.
- Try to determine the age of the robber if you can.
- Most importantly, try to remember as much as you can about what the suspect was wearing. Shirt and pant color, hats, shoe type and color, etc., are very important things that police will need.
- Remember which direction the robber fled after the robbery. If the robber gets into a vehicle, try to remember the make, color, style, and model of the car. Get as much information as you can including the license plate number. Do not rely solely though on the license plate number as most robbers will use cars with stolen license plates or stolen vehicles.
What to Do After the Robbery
- Notify the police as soon as possible. The first call you make, as soon as it is safe to do so, should be to the police via 911. Tell the dispatcher that a robbery has just occurred and stay on the line until the operator releases you. Remain calm and answer all the questions as completely as possible.
- Protect the crime scene. If the robbery occurred at a business, lock all doors and stop all business transactions. Calmly tell customers that a robbery has occurred and ask them to stay to speak to the police. If they wish to leave, get identification from them to give to the police. Do not let anyone near the area the robber occupied. Fingerprints and evidence can be destroyed by curious employees and customers.
- Record your observations of the crime / robber. Have everyone involved write down their observations of the robbery and the robber(s). Do not discuss the crime among yourselves, but write down what you remember. Suspect ID Charts should be passed out to everyone involved.