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Crosby Street Burglary

From the autobiographical notes of Captain Charles Albertson regarding his career in the New York City Police Department and his travels and adventures during retirement beginning in January 1905.

The Crosby Street Burglary

During the summer of 1879, while on duty on the west side of Broadway from Canal to Broome Street, just at dawn I saw something that created by suspicion at the north east corner of Broome and Crosby Street which is one block east of Broadway. The long way of the building was on Crosby Street with broad steps leading to the basement, which was occupied as a German restaurant and saloon. This entrance was very near the corner. In the dawn I thought I saw a man disappear down the steps and after waiting some time and he did not appear, I became suspicious as the saloon was never open at this time in the morning. It was a wholesale business district. I sent word to two nearby policemen in my precinct and a couple in the precinct where we were to investigate. We came at the place from four directions. I went down and tried the basement door which was fastened. I then tried the solid paneled board window shutters all the way upon the Crosby Street side and when I got to the last one I pulled it open and the lower sash was raised and I had to stoop down to look in, as the area way only extended to the bottom of the window. A revolver was thrust into my face breaking a small piece from a front tooth and as I knocked it up it was discharges, a bullet fanning my ear, too close for comfort. It was quite dark inside and when we rounded up the five young burglars who were inside I could not tell which one had fired the shot, strange as it may seem.

The basement door had a hasp and padlock which had been sawed off and the lock opened with a skeleton key. The first floor of the building was a wholesale woolen goods room, containing vast quantities of very valuable goods, which was protected by a burglar alarm. The burglars had commenced cutting a hole through the ceiling of the basement and the first floor where it was not wired. If they had not been disturbed they would have made a good job of it by passing the cloth down into the basement. Then when the coast was clear and the wagon arrived, they would load it quickly and get away. The five prisoners who pleaded guilty were all young men and were sent to Elmira Reformatory.

About two hours after the arrest an east side grocery wagon arrived on the scene and drove by the corner several times, got discouraged and went away. There was no direct evidence against the driver other than the moral certainty that he came for a load of cloth.

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