Of Bandits and Men

Pop media will tell you that on December 16, 1930, a notorious bandit known for his devious bank robbery schemes committed suicide after after being cornered by over 200 lawmen and armed citizens after one of his robbery attempts was foiled by an alert barber who was armed with a shotgun. Pop media will also glamourize his exploits and how they were copied by numerous other Depression/Prohibition Era bandits, but the real story is the 200-person force that captured them. You’ll note that I have deliberately not named nor linked to any source with the names of said bandits as I simply choose not participate in said glorification.

What I will link to is a fantastic article about the group that did the capturing.

Said article does a wonderful job of relaying the history and the mood of an era in which local law enforcement was ill equipped and inept, in part due to the inept or corrupt political systems, to deal with a problem that superseded boundaries.

That shotgun-toting-barber was part of a group of “vigilantes” that was organized by the Indiana Banking Association (IBA) in response to a surge in daylight bank robberies. Networks of private citizens were organized and armed to mobilize and setup lookouts and roadblocks upon the report of a robbery. These networks were organized and funded by the IBA and in cooperation with local law enforcement. The IBA went as far as providing .45 caliber revolvers to supplement the rifles and shotguns owned by the members of these vigilance committees, and they even held competitions to promote marksmanship training. One committee even bought an airplane equipped with machine guns and spotlights.

It was one of these groups that jumped into action and corned our unnamed antagonist.

Ultimately, the IBA pressured the Indiana legislature into forming a statewide police force equipped with a radio network, and this became more economically feasible than organizing and funding committees of citizens who were linked by telephone. This had been the IBA’s goal all along, to force the state into action.

As I am prone to draw parallels between modern and past eras, I can’t help but ponder the adoption of such an approach in places in which local governments are unable, or perhaps more accurately, unwilling to address pillaging mobs.

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