Barney Fife's bank robbery episodes reflected a real rise in heists in America
In 1965, the deputy found $250,000 from a bank heist. That year, bank robbery losses hit the highest levels yet recorded: $3.9 million.
In 1965, fans of The Andy Griffith Show watched Barney Fife concoct one of his boldest detective schemes yet, after the deputy finds $250,000 from a bank heist in a suitcase.
Believing the bank robber will return for his lost money, Barney goes undercover, gadding about Mayberry flashing his new wealth and hoping to attract the robber's attention.
Sheriff Andy was opposed to Barney's plan in "If I Had a Quarter-Million Dollars." Instead of playing along, Andy called in the FBI, believing them to be better equipped to handle this case than Mayberry's finest.
When this episode aired, the U.S. was actually experiencing its largest spike in bank heists since the era of John Dillinger robberies in the 1930s.
According to the Springfield Leader and Press, in 1964, the FBI recorded more than three times as many bank robberies than they'd investigated a decade prior.
Total losses to bank robbery were at the highest levels ever recorded, amounting to $3.9 million.
In 1964, an FBI spokesman told the Leader and Press that the problem was largely connected to the creation of suburbs. In the suburbs, there tended to be fewer police officers, and bank branches tended to have fewer security measures, frequently located near easy escape routes. It left these suburban banks vulnerable to defend against unexpected threats from a growing number of amateur bank robbers.
"Today, we're dealing not only with old-time professionals, but also with a growing number of amateurs — including teenagers as young as 15, kids who need money for payments on their cars, even middle-aged women and little old ladies," the FBI spokesman said.
To combat these amateur bank robbers, the banks started relying on the latest technology, installing for the first time "special movie cameras to film holdups and identify hoodlums in action."
This was also the time when bank tellers first started using silent alarms that directly connected banks to local police.
On The Andy Griffith Show, bank robberies were rare, and we think the inspiration for "If I Had a Quarter-Million Dollars" was more to replicate the comedy of Barney’s "going undercover" laughs from the earlier episode "The Bank Job," which aired in 1962.
That was the episode that famously introduced Gomer Pyle, donning goggles while cracking open the safe. Maybe after "If I Had a Quarter-Million Dollars," Gomer helped install some "special movie cameras" to deter any further security breaches in Mayberry?