Thursday, July 25, 2013

Jul 25 (1907) Bank Robbery Foiled: "I want $1000 and I want it quick"

 Police guarding a New York bank in 1908. From George Grantham Bain Collection (Library of Congress)
In a series about falling crime rates worldwide, The Economist recently commented that armed bank robberies have become so rare they are all but extinct (though bank fraud cases are on the rise).

Not so in 1907, when bank robberies were front page news. An attempt on a Mechanics Bank of Brooklyn, NY, however, was foiled because the teller was skilled in banking fundamentals. Then as now, good bankers know their customers. The New York Sun reported on this day in 1907:

"Edwin A. Khol, a paying teller, and George Blage, an assistant bookkeeper, were in the front the of building when the [armed robbers] entered. Mr. Kohl was at the first window and as he looked up at the strangers one of them handed him a pass book through the grated window and demanded $1000. The paying teller looked at the pass book and noticed that it belonged to William Neumann, the secretary of the H.C. Bohack Company, a grocery concern which has stores all over Brooklyn...

As the paying teller was well acquainted with Neumann he decided immediately that something was wrong and asked the man if the book was his. The man nodded his head and said:

'Yes, and I want $1000 and I want it quick.'

Taking in the situation at a glance, the assistant bookkeeper, Mr. Balge, found Sgt. Mahoney walking the streets in citizens clothes and quickly told him of the situation. With Policeman John C. Boehm, the three hastened to the bank building and on reaching the rear room the [armed robbers] jumped to their feet but made no attempt to fight."

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Flannery O'Connor

You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you odd.