The Journal News from Hamilton, Ohio on February 27, 1977 · Page 51
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The Journal News from Hamilton, Ohio · Page 51

Hamilton, Ohio
Issue Date:
Sunday, February 27, 1977
Page 51
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PlgfF Joumal-NVm. Hamilton tralrfleld. Ohio Sunday. February 87.1977 r- HAi tf' Smile, Mr. Robber, You're on Candid Camera! r/- EDITOR'S NOTE: The Hamilton-based Mosler Safe Co. has pioneered many of the developments in the banking and security industry. The following article, which originally appeared in "m pulse," a Mosler publication, details the development of the photosurveillance camera used in savings institutions across the country. By ROBERT R. ROSBERG Journal-News Contributor There were 12 who rode quietly into Liberty. Mo., that February afternoon* back in 1866. And there were 12 who rode out moments later after robbing the Clay County Savings Assoc. of an estimated $60,000. It wasn't a daring raid as newspapers reported. It couldn't have been because no one had ever robbed a bank in broad daylight before. In the 84-year history of American banking, no financial institution had recorded such an act e\cept for a Confederate guerrilla attack on a Vermont bank during the Civil War. The era of the holdup had begun. When the dozen horsemen reached the center of town, they dismounted and several of the men took up posts as lookouts. Two of the men entered the bank. (Although it is still not clear, it is thought that one of the two was either Frank or Jesse James.) While one robber engaged the bookkeeper in conversation, the other asked the cashier to change a $10 bill. Then, In a steady but direct manner, the 1 gunman \eveted a long-barreled revolver on his victim and demanded all the money. . This marked the beginning of the James gang's 15- year crime spree which included 12 bank holdups and 12 train and stagecoach robberies in 11 states. In moments, the two men had filled their sacks with money and fled. Although a posse was immediately formed to track down the bandits, no trace was fcunu of their whereabouts. It wasn't until years later that officials confirmed who actually took part in the Liberty raid. For the next 91 years, until April, 195", holdups continued to mount with the problem of positive identification still unsolved. On April 12, 1957, 91 ye.ars after the James gang's first holdup, another savings institution was to be marked as owner of a holdup first. This time It was the St. Clair Savings Loan Co. of Cleveland. The event:, the first holdup in which a surveillance camera was used to film an actual robbery. For law enforcement officials and the entire security world, the event could not have been better conceived. On April U, workmen began installing electronic gear, including the then-new Photoguard camera. The 16mm, electronically operated motion picture oamera was installed behind tne teller line. At closing time, the installers left, planning to return the following morning to complete their job. Outside, two people, a man and a woman, stood observing the bank, "casing" it for the robbery planned for the next day. They had done their homework well. They knew when "the .bank opened and closed. They knew how many tellers and employees were on hand. They had planned their escape with a second woman and they knew that opening time was the time they could strike. Shortly after 8 a.m. the following day, April 12, the installers returned to complete their work. They wired the camera, control and holdup activators. They loaded the camera with film. Unfortunately, they did not have time to run off test pictures, or make final adjustments for lens settings and exposure. They planned to do that later. It was approximately 9:30 a.m. when the workmen left. As the manager unlocked the door to open for the day's business, a man and woman entered. They were the same two who had watched from across the street the day before. Almost immediately' they started la work, demanding all the money in the cash drawers. Startled, but in full commmand of- the situation, one of the tellers triggered the brand new holdup activator Without being noticed. Instantly, the concealed camera behind a wall partition began to roll. At the same time, the conventional silent police alarm recorded "holdup in progress" at the Cleveland Police Communications Center downtown. The first police car arrived at the scene within two minutes, but the robbers had made good' their getaway moments earlier. Police, -in obtaining descriptions from witnesses encountered the usual generalities and contradictions that are the rule in 'Situations where emotions dominate reason. Soon, composite descriptions were made and broadcast, but police knew that they would ·fit any two of 10,000 people. This time, police fiad something going for them which would supplement the confused ana frightened verbal descriptions given by witnesses. For the first time, the Mosler Photoguard camera would prove to be an infallible silent witness to Jhe crime. For the first time, motion picture films of an entire robbery were waiting to .give expert, unemotional testimony. The film was rushed to the processor and assembled detectives at police headquarters. Authorities were apprehensive about picture quality because they knew that focus and exposure tests had not been made. But the film was more than adequate -- and incriminating! In fascinated silence, the officers viewed the holdup from start to finish. They saw a masked bandit brandish his pistol. They could see the teller press the holdup alarm, undetected, and raise his hands obediently. They saw the woman companion walk behind the teller stations with a particularly mincing gait. Th«y noticed the practiced motion with which she snapped open a paper bag into which she placed the mon«iy. Particularly noticeable was the unusual prancing, erratic steps taken by the masked bandit. Silence followed, the film. Police had just participated in the unprecedented viewing of a smoothly executive holdup. In just one minute, 15 seconds, they had observed more of an actual holdup than any had seen in their entire careers. Detectives fanned out over the city, putting pieces of the puzzle together. La'ter that Say, motion picture films of the holdup were shown to millions of viewers on network television. Still photos appeared in the evening newspapers. Wherever the bandits went, they couldn't escape their mug shots being publicly exposed. Their criminal act was being discussed everywhere. It was the most publicized robbery in the history of the bank holdups. Steven Thomas, the masked gunman, after traveling to indianapolis. decided he had had enough being the star on TV and in the newspapers. He returned to Cleveland and turned himself in, saying, "I knew I couldn't get very far." Police also were able to identify his female companion, but could not locate her. However, an anonymous woman phone caller reported to police, "I saw the girl you are looking for on TV. She can be found at. . . ." The wanted girl was picked up shortly thereafter at the given address. The woman driver and lookout also walked into police headquarters and surrendered. A fourth accomplice, who supplied the gun and car, was named by those apprehended and she too was brought in. "The elapsed time from holdup to case closed? Just 36 hours. The new Mosler Photoguard camera had instantly earned its place in modern criminal investigation and law enforcement identification. The effectiveness of recording motion and mannerisms of those who are masked or disguised had been clearly established. The man in this case was identified by his erratic movement; the girl, by her unsusual gait. The results of this documentary were amazing. While the incidence of holdup continued to climb elsewhere in the U.S.. Cleveland did not have a. single financial institution holdup attempt for the next 15 months- Law enforcement leaders estimated that this was the longest "holdup free" period in the history of any major city. ^ This is a record that may never be broken. In the 18-plus years that photosurveillance cameras have been successfully employed in federally insured banks, savings and loans and credit unions, one alarming fact is evident. Holdups continue to increase at a staggering rate. From 1957 when the St. Clair Savings Co. recorded its first holdup on film, to July, 1975. bank robberies increased from 257 to 4.252 an- nuallv. To be sure, an early philosphy in using the camera was to deter the bandit. And it is obvious they did just that. Unfortunately, no one knows just haw many bandits, after casing a bank, chose a location win without the mechanical "silent witness." As the camera gained acceptance, so did the reasons for their need. It was simply a matter of self- defense, much the same as the silent holdup alarm. Financial institutions which employed photosur- veillance systems to further protect customers and employees," now use them to assist law enforcement officers in early identification, apprehension and, hopefully, the return of stolen cash and property. In recent years new techniques and formats nave been introduced. The 35mm rapid sequence camera ts replacing the 16mm motion picture camera because of greater picture size and image quality. Closed-circuit television with instant replay is now available. And to aid in the ever-increasing fraudulent check problem, a special time-date programmed has been introduced to film every customer transaction during the business day. Each is designed for a specific task and each performs with near-perfect mechanical record. tn American-Standard Company ·~^~~~ Hamilton, Ohio 45012 . Arnold Miller/during a robbery of Ihc National City Bank. Cleveland, Mar, 3,1975, shot at the two Mosler Iftnmi sequence cameras, attempting to destroy ttifc only documentary evidence that could positively identify him. Fortunately all of film exposed up until the impact of the bullet was wound on the take-up spool and was not destroyed. The film was used to identify Miller and he was later captured. Photos provided by Ihc Federal Bureau of Investigation Cleveland office. Probably one of the most famous pictures ever taken by a Mosler rapid sequence camera is this one of Patty Hearst, taken during a robbery ofthc llibernia Bank. San Francisco. April 15.1974 Mosler An American-Standard Company Hamilton, Ohio 45012

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