1. NomDeGuerre
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    NomDeGuerre Member

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    Your Dream Bank Robbery Scenario???

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by NomDeGuerre, Feb 21, 2016.

    Hi all!

    I have hit a huge block with a crime caper book I'm working on. Specifically I am lost on all the minutiae regarding how to actually pull off a bank heist. My characters are not professionals, just four friends who band together, although one happens to be really good with computers.

    What I'm aiming for is a sort of surreal robbery, an "Anti-The Town." The movie based on Chuck Hogan's novel I thought was a great depiction of a robbery. But I don't want to compete with it. I want to do something different. But...

    ...how different can you be? :confused:

    Yes, I know the basics like dye packs and GPS tracers and silent alarms and the "two-minute rule." But the more I research into the technology the more flat-out overwhelmed I get.

    How can I avoid all the techie stuff but still make things plausible? And also DIFFERENT? And how can a guy with computer skills actually take down or bypass bank alarms? It's hooked up to the phone line and electrical grid, right? I supposed he could knock those out...but how & the technicals involved...and again we start getting into too much tech and the story gets lost and I just want to chuck the whole thing. :meh::( And really I don't want to spent hundreds of hours interviewing cops and bank tellers about how to rob a bank, because first off, they're not gonna tell me. And secondly, I'm gonna look like a bank robber myself! :eek:
     
  2. Rob40
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    Rob40 Active Member

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    Change the time period to where it was easier? They say to write what you know and if you are hitting a large wall, take somme time to research it, or, back the date up to a period that you do know and understand. Before the internet or high bank tech.

    An aside: Do some research with popcorn and watch the movie-Dog Day Afternoon, or perhaps find the Life article it's based on-The boys in the bank, where a group of guys get in the mdidle of a bank robbery and everything does not go as planned. They're so amateur. It's hard to watch Dustin Hoffman deal with everything-exasperated.
     
  3. Lea`Brooks
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    Lea`Brooks Contributing Member Contributor

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    Are they robbing a bank during businesses hours or later, when they'd have no hostages?

    I worked as a teller for a while. The first thing I can tell you is that, in my training, we were told to never press the silent alarm. It's possible that the police would show up before the robbers left, leaving a potential hostage situation that likely wouldn't end well. Second, we were told to only use the dye packs (in our case GPS tracking device) if we felt comfortable. For example, if a guy came to the window and passed us a note (which is the most common way banks get robbed) and says he only wants hundreds, we wouldn't use the GPS device -- because it's hidden in a pack of twenties. Throwing twenties into a bag when the guy wants hundreds could potentially make him nervous and skeptical enough to check it out and realize the trick. Third, in my bank, there were no alarms during business hours. All of the doors had keypads, but no alarms would go off if someone tried to open it or put in the wrong code.

    At night, it's totally different. The door automatically locked at 5pm, so no one else could get inside. We'd lock up the teller drawers in locked boxes in the safe, which only three people in our branch knew the combo to. The keys for the locked boxes would be locked in another locked box, which again only three people had the key to. Before we left, we'd set an alarm, giving us thirty seconds to get outside before it activated. In the morning, we had thirty seconds to punch in the alarm code before it would go off and call the police.

    So really, if you're doing it during off hours, you'd need to know the alarm code, the code for the doors, either the safe code or a way to break into it, and a lock pick to get the keys for the locked boxes or just pick the lock of every locked box.

    But during the day, you'd need nothing because the teller would do it for you. We were trained not to resist. Do whatever they ask -- the bank is insured, our safety is the most important. Maybe the only thing they'd have to worry about taking out is the cameras so that there'd be no images of them on record.

    But this wasn't a high security bank. If you go somewhere like New York, the security will be much higher. I just worked at a tiny 28 branch bank in Illinois. lol Granted, it was the most popular in our area, but still.
     
  4. NomDeGuerre
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    NomDeGuerre Member

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    Hey Lea!

    Thanks for that! I didn't know about the "twenties" being used to hide trackers. But I understand trackers (and dyepacks too!) are now so wafer thin and flexible that even a pro quickly flipping through them wouldn't be able to tell. And who's gonna stick around anally going through every stack when the seconds are flying by?

    My crew is robbing a bank during daylight hours. I assumed cutting off the phone lines and electricity would automatically disable cameras and silent alarms and whatever else. One crew member is a computer whiz and I thought he would be able to do that. But then that just seems such a movie-like cliche! Hack the security system -- boring and kinda' unrealistic, right?

    ARrrhhhg! I don't know what to do. And no -- as someone else suggested -- I do not want to place this in another time period as that negates my whole story altogether!

    What I have the one computer guy do is build a RF/GPS jammer that prevents dyepacks and trackers from working and also keeps anyone else from using a cellphone. I guess this is feasible? They also use lead-lined bags for the teller stash, to keep radio frequencies from coming through and setting something off. Overkill?

    But still doesn't do anything about the silent alarms or landlines. My guys are worried because they don't really know how it works and want to cover all bases. What would an MIT computer whiz dedicated to robbing a bank be able to come up with?
     
  5. Lea`Brooks
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    Lea`Brooks Contributing Member Contributor

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    I can't speak for all banks, just for mine. But the tracker was hidden instead twenties, yes. Though "hidden" is kind of misleading. It's a fake bundle of money, with two real twenties on the top and bottom. The inside is hollow, which is where the tracker is. On first glance, it looks like a bundle of money. The top, bottom, and edges all feel like real money. But if you pull back the top two bills, the tracker is clearly visible.

    I wouldn't cut the power. The doors that need codes 1) need power to be opened -- if the power is cut, so is the option of getting into important rooms where money could be kept, and 2) if it's a large bank, they'd likely have a backup generator.

    I don't know if this would work either. I don't know how those jammers that you just described work, but if they prevent dye packs and cell phones from working, wouldn't they also prevent doors that rely on codes from opening?

    Have you seen Ocean's Eleven? lol They're a little extreme, but it may help give you ideas.
     
  6. Simpson17866
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    Simpson17866 Contributing Member Contributor

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    My thought: making the bank rob themselves for you might be seen as easier than trying to rob them yourself.

    I've never been able to turn this entire an entire story, but I've wanted to write for months about a villain who

    *Kidnaps an innocent victim, locks him in a remote-activated suicide bomb vest, and asks if he's ever seen "30 Minutes or Less"

    *Sends her hostage into the bank, him planning to explain that he is a hostage and that the bank needs to give him ransom money or she'll kill him and everyone around him

    *Sets the bomb off before he has a chance to say anything, driving off before the police arrive

    *Walking into another bank a few days later, impersonating an FBI agent and asking if she could have everybody's attention regarding the recent bombing

    *"Explaining" that the police believe it to have been a trial run: that if the robber had simply sent a bomb-hostage to ask for money the first time, then the bank might have called the police because they couldn't be sure how serious the hostage-taker was about setting off the bomb, but now the banks should know that the person is serious and that they had better pay the hostage next time.

    *Taunting everybody that "By now, you should all realize that I was lying about being FBI. I'm sure you all want to call them now, but let me assure you that I have already picked out my next partner. I trust that her husband and children have already filed a missing person's report, and I promise that if I am arrested before I get back, then she will starve to death alone, naked, and freezing in a bunker. Would anybody like to be the one to kill her?"

    ... and that's as far as I've got so far. No hero (or rival villain), no plot, just a villain who wants to check off as many crime boxes as possible as dramatically as possible so that she can go down in history as one of the greatest villains of all time.
     
  7. NomDeGuerre
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    NomDeGuerre Member

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    But door codes (the daygate?) aren't based on radio frequencies. Or are they?

    I think Ocean's Eleven is way too Mission Impossible-like.

    How's this? You got an MIT computer whiz who's best reasoning is to: plain rob the bank with no high-tech gear? Is that like ironical? ;)

    PS -- ARRRRRHHHHG! It's just too frustrating. Maybe I'll just quit on the novel. I don't know anything about dye-packs, trackers, radio frequencies, door codes, power lines, phone lines, silent alarms, kangaroos or even pandas! I couldn't even tell you how a fire hydrant works! I was reading Robert Craiss's Two-Minute Rule crime thriller and he does a bang-up job portraying a gritty old-fashioned robbery and the police investigation that follows. But I wanted to add some flair, an extra little something my crew goes in there with. But still keep in real, no Mission Impossible. ARRHHHGGGG! I quit!

    PPS -- I wrote a 1st draft. Of course, it didn't work. On this 2nd one I wanted to really get things right (or at least better!) But it's turning into just another sucky draft that just sucks in a different way. :(
     
  8. IlaridaArch
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    IlaridaArch Active Member

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    Change of setting might be in place like suggested. Fact is that modern day bank robbery is extremely rare (at least no stories pop up in news), and main reason is the high level of security and increased police work. Dream bank robbery sounds like a hit to major bank, so this problem is even bigger.

    Have you seen TV show called "Murdoch Mysteries". It's about murder crimes, but the setting is I think close to 1890-1900 and location is Boston. Setting like that could be extremely interesting. :) It's not easy to design a bank robbery. Good luck with this.

    PS. Some door code applications do work via radio frequencies. Doors to garages, some apartment outdoors, even some cars. More expensive system, more likely it won't work like that, because there are devices sized a wallet, which can jam and unlock these systems.
     
  9. Lea`Brooks
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    Lea`Brooks Contributing Member Contributor

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    Bank robberies are actually pretty common. I only worked as a teller for six months, and I knew of at least three robberies that happened during that time. And in my current town, it seems a bank is getting robbed every month.

    I think the problem is that you're trying to do too much. You're thinking too large. Robbing big banks is going to require you to use all of that stuff you're talking about. But robbing small banks is so easy, it's silly. Like I said, most people just pass a note to the teller, who does nothing to set off the alarm. The people inside won't know the bank is being robbed so they won't call the police. He won't need to disable dye packs or gps trackers if he just is very specific in what he wants. In my bank, we couldn't just transfer the gps tracking device into different bills. It was always twenties.

    There is a chance the teller could set off the silent alarm, but most of the time, the police called the bank before coming out. For example, we had two different types of silent alarms. One was a button kept under the desk. And one was a little remote looking thing kept under a bundle of bills in the drawer. There was a piece of cardboard under a clip, and if the cardboard was pulled off, it activated the alarm. But people accidentally pulled off the cardboard so often that the police always called to make sure everything was okay before they came out. If there was a problem, we said a code word. I want to say it was "blue," but I don't remember because I never had to use it.

    So it might be easier if you just scaled the robbery down. I don't know if that'll work with your story or not though.
     
  10. MockingJD
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    MockingJD Member

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    Maybe the hacker can bug the security software before it's installed at the bank? Maybe there's a grand opening of a big new bank in your town and some fancy security company wins the contract and maybe one of your guys works there and he installs some kind of bug to go off at a predetermined time to create a security backdoor so that they can temporarily disable it (in the process putting the security footage on a pre-recorded loop) in order to perpetrate the heist.
     
  11. NomDeGuerre
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    NomDeGuerre Member

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    Hey Lea! Thanks again! :oops: My crew does a take-over robbery to get at the vault. But my idea now is that computer guy -- for all his high-tech know-h0w -- makes the conclusion that just going with no tech is the best, just "hard and fast." How ironic is that? Although I had the idea he would build a portable Faraday Cage: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Faraday_cage So dyepacks and trackers won't work.

    I do like the idea of the police calling to confirm a robbery and one of the tellers being forced to give the right "code." Basically things start to go wrong in the robbery.

    What about motion sensors? I had it so it needs to be thwarted, but the computer dude has a device that switches them off. Though how realistic is that?
    If the sensors are wireless (most are, right?) then he could conceivably jam it, right? o_O

    Here's a review about Ocean's Eleven that showcases exactly the pitfalls I'm trying to avoid:
    In "Ocean's Eleven," we're expected to believe that a casino with over $150 million in its vault wouldn't have a backup power generator, or that the vault's security system wouldn't have a motion sensor.
    :D
     
  12. Simpson17866
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    Simpson17866 Contributing Member Contributor

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    And that enough magazines to fill a dozen duffel bags can just appear out of nowhere ;)
     
  13. RobT
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    RobT Active Member

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    Does it have to be a bank? Could you have a had a jewel robbery from a hotel, or a heist from a bullion truck for example? If the bank isn't crucial there are other options with potential for lower tech.
     
  14. Samurai Jack
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    Samurai Jack Active Member

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    Why the comparisons to Ocean's Eleven?

    I would ask why a vault would need a motion sensor inside of it. The vault can only be accessed by a single elevator and is surrounded by guards. It's a fault that could only be exploited by a small person able to contort themselves into an impossible space and position who was also a criminal tied to a team who would con their way into the situation in the first place.

    Why is there a question of a backup generator? The power to the vault was cut explicitely for a SWAT team to attack the occupants. Maybe there was a backup generator, but it was overridden for the situation.

    There didn't need to be multiple duffel bags full of flyers going in. The SWAT team was carrying duffle bags. They could have each been 1/5 full of flyers, and artificially inflated inside the vault.

    Ocean's Eleven (Twelve, Thirteen) did a pretty good job of creating scenarios where a viewer could think, these are all obstacles 'I', nor anyone I know, could not possibly overcome, and then the team did through unlikely combinations of imagination, skill and luck, but entertainingly enough that I'm going to overlook the obsurdity.

    As a side note, I like the course you seem to be taking. Have a group of sledge hammers look at cameras, alarms, motion sensors, dye packs, GPS... feel overwhelmed enough to look for a tech to bypass everything. The tech has the eye to see, all you need is a sledgehammer.
     
  15. tonguetied
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    tonguetied Contributing Member Contributor

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    If you have a computer whiz why not do something like have all the tellers deposits directed into the robbers account for a given day. This would be similar to "The Office" but with a quick strike methodology. Setting up the robbers account and moving the money out of it quickly, etc. would be a big part of the storyline. Since few people would really know the inner workings of banking you would not have to be perfectly accurate to be believable.
     

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