What is an Armored Car Robbery?

Paul Woods

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.

Armored car robberies target vehicles transporting money or other valuables.
Armored car robberies target vehicles transporting money or other valuables.

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.

In a robbery in Seattle the robber attacked the car guard with pepper spray before making off with the money.
In a robbery in Seattle the robber attacked the car guard with pepper spray before making off with the money.

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.

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Discussion Comments


Animandel - I remember reading about the robbery in Charlotte that you mentioned. I don't think it was technically considered an armored car robbery since the vault was robbed by a couple of workers. I'm not sure what the largest amount stolen during an armored vehicle robbery is.

@Drentel - Yes, armored car robberies are still popular in the movies. I think it's like the last frontier and the wild west-- the forbidden waiting to be conquered. Or maybe it's just because guys like watching explosions, gun play and vehicles moving fast on a big screen.

Sporkasia - The movies still like the armored car robbery as a story plot. I could make a long list of all the heist movies I've seen that involved robbing an armored car. I wonder what it is about robbing an armored car that excites the imagination.


Do you know that many armored car robberies are inside jobs? One of the biggest ever, which occurred at an armored car vault in Charlotte, NC, was an inside job.

Thieves who are willing to take the risk, and do the research to learn routes and pickups probably steal more money than they could at one lone bank. Of course, as the article said, those armored vehicles are better guarded. The cars are bulletproof vehicles and guards are well armed in most cases.

I remember when armored car robberies were a rarity, even more rare than the numbers in the article indicated. The robberies were mostly an incident that happened on TV or on a movie screen. I am surprised to learn how often these types of robberies occur today.
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