Science of Bank Robbery
December 16, 1930: Herman Lamm dies. He was born in Kassel, German Empire in 1890. He was also known as Baron Lamm. He was a member of the Prussian Army, but was forced to leave after he was caught cheating at cards. He next emigrated to the US shortly before World War I broke out in 1914. He became a holdup man and included many of the things he had learned in his military training and study of tactics. It was his opinion that planning a robbery took the same skills as planning a military operation including contingency plans should something go wrong. At the time, bank robbers in the United States were mostly a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kind of enterprise and the success they had was reflective of the amount of planning used.
Lamm wanted to take the guesswork out of bank robbing. He was arrested in 1917 after a failed holdup and served a short sentence in a Utah prison. While there, he had time to develop what came to be called “The Lamm Technique” where he pioneered the idea of “casing” a locality before attempting a robbery. After his release, he had several run-ins with different police and he used several different aliases. In February 1927, he and an accomplice were arrested in Finley County, North Carolina. A list of arrests was found, some using his real name and some using an alias. There were also several cases found where he was a suspect, but not actually arrested.
Lamm’s system called for careful study of a target bank. Many hours were spent developing a detailed floor plan, marking out locations of safes, and taking notes. Also important was creating a viable escape route with a backup plan if needed. Each gang member would be given a specific job and a specific zone of the bank to study as well as a strict timetable for completing the work. Oen jobe was assigned for a lookout, another man was given the task of getaway driver, and he had a lobby man and vault man assigned for each robbery. There were rehearsals; some used full-scale mockups of the bank to be robbed. Lamm stressed the timing of the event and used stopwatches during the rehearsals. He was the first to develop a highly detailed getaway map and got a non-descript high powered car for each new heist.
He and his gang botched a robbery in Clinton, Indiana on this date. They were able to grab $15,567 from Citizens State Bank. The getaway driver noticed a local barber approaching the car, carrying a shotgun. The barber was one of the thousands of local citizens who were part of a posse. The driver miscalculated and blew a tire while executing a U-turn. The robbers grabbed another car, only to find it had a governor on it which did not allow speeds in excess of 35 mph. They next grabbed a truck, but it was not working and they tried another car which was low on gas. Lamm and his gang were cornered near Sidell, Illinois with about 200 police and armed citizens engaging in a massive gun battle. Lamm and another gang member shot themselves in the head, rather than be arrested. Two survivors were arrested and sentenced to life in prison.
I rob banks because that’s where the money is. – Willie Sutton
Anytime four New Yorkers get into a cab together without arguing, a bank robbery has just taken place. – Johnny Carson
You can easily die racing to cover a bank robbery as you can in a war zone. – Jessica Savitch
It has been rumoured that I was the brains of the robbery, but that was totally incorrect. I’ve been described as the tea boy, which is also incorrect. – Ronald Biggs
Also on this day: Mississippi River Flowed North – In 1811, after a series of earthquakes, the Mississippi river flowed in the opposite direction for a time.
Mr. Music – In 1770, Ludwig van Beethoven was born.
Tea for Two – In 1773, the Boston Tea Party too place.
Protector – In 1653, Oliver Cromwell became the first Lord Protector of the Commonwealth.