As President Obama delivered Barnard College’s commencement address Monday afternoon, someone walked into the neighboring Chase Bank and passed a note to the teller. Minutes later, he exited, wads of cash in hand.
Bank robberies aren’t uncommon in New York City. Between 2010 and 2011, the number of armed robberies shot up 69 percent, from 26 (a record low) to 44. No doubt last year’s thinning of the police force had something to do with it.
Less coverage means easier getaways. The strategy is simple: Go where the cops aren’t. So when the president is speaking at Barnard College, on 117th and Broadway in Manhattan, you can count on an armada of blue to be stationed on campus — and few patrolling the mean streets of the gentrified Upper West Side. This makes the Chase on 112th Street a perfect target.
— Breaking911 (@Breaking911) May 14, 2012
In terms of sheer proximity to guns and batons, however, robbing that teller took serious cojones:
It’s not the first time, either. One notable presidential-speech robbery spree occurred in 2004, when John Kerry and George W. Bush held competing rallies in Davenport, Iowa, distracting the police force from five bank robberies in one hour.
The headline itself made national news, and Jay Leno even got in on the act with his patented brand of populist shtick: “In Davenport, three banks were robbed while Bush and Kerry were talking. See, I guess the robbers felt better they get the people’s money before the politicians do,” he “joked.”
But these robberies took place before the current virality of the Internet took hold, and the headline made for just a passing blip. Soon these robberies were forgotten, mostly because Twitter, Facebook and YouTube had yet to corrupt the fierce urgency of now into the fierce urgency of nonsense (to update Martin Luther King). No national media outlets ever followed up on the potential for criminal genius contained within the story: Were these robberies connected? Did one person make out with all the loot? Did they have anything to do with police resources being used elsewhere for the competing rallies? Was anyone caught, tried or convicted? Could you really steal City Hall?
To start, here’s what happened on August 4, 2004 in Davenport, Iowa:
10:00 a.m.: John Kerry begins speaking at River Center
10:45-ish a.m.: President George W. Bush steps off Air Force One before speaking at LeClaire Park
10:45 a.m.: Man robs Ralston and Community Credit Union
11:23 a.m.: Man robs First National Bank, about 10 blocks from the first bank
11:45 a.m.: Man robs Southeast National Bank
(Seriously, read Slade Sohmer’s breakdown of those five robberies. Wild stuff.)
Thank god for the FDIC.
Obama’s speech will be memorable for these two lines:
“Don’t just get involved. Fight for your seat at the table. Better yet, fight for your seat at the head of the table. … We are dynamic, not static. We look forward, not backward.”
And, speaking of smooth criminals, this one:
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