The Crime Blotter

Bank Robbery 101:

Props May Strengthen Plea

A couple of recent Upper East Side bank robberies-one which failed and the other which succeeded-suggest that, all things being equal, props can make all the difference. In the first incident, on Dec. 19, a male walked into the Chase Manhattan Bank at 1003 Lexington Avenue at 4:05 p.m. and passed the teller a note that stated, “Don’t cause a scene. Don’t scream. I have a gun. Someone could die.”

Fair enough. But the perp didn’t produce the weapon in question. The teller read the note and passed it back to the suspect. Then she apparently headed for the door leading into the teller area-not to flee, but to lock it so that the robber, who was approaching it from behind the customer-service desk, couldn’t join her inside. She beat him to it, leaving him outside demanding, “Open the door! Open the door!”

Realizing-about one minute later-that his yelling and screaming wasn’t going to get him anywhere, the villain fled in an unknown direction. The cops canvassed approximately six square blocks, including the subway station at 77th Street and Lexington Avenue, but with negative results.

A better-prepared bank robber had more to show for his efforts the following day, Dec. 20, when he dropped by another Chase Manhattan Bank, this one at 770 Lexington Avenue. He was bearing a bomb-or at least something that bore enough resemblance to one to win the staff’s cooperation.

Approaching a teller’s window at 12:25 p.m., he slipped an employee a note that stated, “I want $10,000. I have a bomb!” I’ll leave it to the talented members of the major-case squad to determine whether the use of exclamation points increases the effectiveness of robbery notes. However, it certainly didn’t hurt when the perp placed a black plastic bag on the counter and opened it to reveal what the police report described as “several tubes wrapped in wire with red and beige wiring hanging out.”

The suspect, undoubtedly with added authority, then said, “I have a bomb. Give me the money. Hurry up. Give me 50’s and 100’s.”

Unlike the teller in the first incident, this one decided that her obligations to her employer, co-workers and the bank’s law-abiding customer base could best be served by shoving even more than the crook asked for through the window-$15,000. After he got his cash, the victorious suspect fled northbound on Lexington Avenue on foot. The police canvassed the area but, again, with negative results.

Severance Pay

When you fire one of your employees, it’s probably prudent to ask him or her to return their keys before you tell them to get lost, as the New York Sports Club at 502 Park Avenue learned on Dec. 21. A manager at the facility told the police that an unknown-though probably not unfamiliar-perpetrator entered the club through a door that’s normally kept locked and helped himself-or, more likely, herself-to $100 in cash, $200 worth of merchandise from the pro shop and $50 worth of office supplies. The suspect also left behind a note. It stated, “Even though you fired me, I still have the keys. Guess who?” Apparently, the gym manager did make a guess about the letter-writer’s identity and passed the information along to the cops, explaining that he’d dismissed an employee three months earlier.

Unsung Heroes

How about a hand for those hard-working security guards who keep the merchandise from sprouting little feet and walking out of their employers’ stores? Were this reporter so employed, he suspects he’d look the other way rather than spark a confrontation and risk injury.

Not so two heroic workers at neighborhood businesses on Dec. 18. At 9:40 p.m., an employee of the Gap at the 1511 Third Avenue store spotted a male removing items from one of the racks and depositing them in a bag he’d brought along for the occasion. When the perp tried to leave, the worker confronted him, but got pushed to the ground for his efforts, though he suffered no injuries. The suspect, along with two accomplices, fled northbound on Third Avenue.

In another incident that occurred a half-hour earlier at a Rite Aid pharmacy at 1535 Second Avenue, a 21-year-old crook helped himself to a rather impressive $1,234 worth of cosmetics. When the drug store’s security guard suggested that it was customary to pay for merchandise, the perp pushed him out of the way and fled.

But the valiant employee gave chase. At some point during the pursuit, the perp stopped, turned around and slashed his opponent with a knife, cutting his face and finger. The bandit kept going, but the security guard’s efforts weren’t in vain. The crook was spotted in front of 440 East 75th Street and arrested.

Ralph Gardner Jr. can be reached at

The Crime Blotter