“Getaway Car”? Har!


Andrew Boyle photo

Larry Lawton was born into New York City crime. He sold sports tickets for wiseguys, then graduated to bookmaking and loan-sharking. He took a stab at the straight life in the Coast Guard but drifted right back into the arms of the Gambino crime family. His first jewelry-store robbery was a mob-orchestrated insurance job, but the thrill was real, and so was the payoff. By the mid-Eighties, he was knocking over jewelers up and down the East Coast, stealing around $18 million worth of jewelry and other merchandise. In 1996, Lawton was arrested in an FBI raid on charges stemming from a heist in Pennsylvania. For dozens of others, he was never caught.

So how did he get away with so many jobs? Part of it comes down to an old criminal adage: If you’re going to break the law, first follow the rules…

Lawton used rental cars for every heist. “Always. You don’t wanna use your car. You don’t wanna use a friend’s car. You don’t wanna steal a hot car.” Remember, you’re not out for a lurid chase scene—the goal is to melt into the crowd, Lawton says. “If you’re caught with a stolen car, then what?”

Lawton’s friend would rent the car with a credit card and list him as a co-driver. Everything on the up-and-up—almost. “The morning of, you steal a plate, and you usually try to get one [from] around that kind of car,” Lawton says. Swap on the bogus plate and head for the heist. Park just out of sight…

Loot secured, you’re back in the car. As soon as you can, pull over and change back the license plate. Now you’re just some guys in a rental; nobody’s chasing you. “It’s an unbelievable high, better than any drug I’ve ever done,” Lawton says, “because you just beat the system. Once you changed the plate, it was perfect…

I’ve known a couple of successful criminals. Guys who were never caught. I know – they knew – The Man knew who they were and somewhat vaguely what they were doing. In those cases, they never stole anything big enough to merit a full-court press. And that ain’t bad duty, either.

But, RTFA. It’s an enjoyable piece that will educate some folks. Not just about crime. More about manipulating a system that rarely matches science and understanding with crime prevention, apprehending bad guys, putting them away. The last bit counts; but, only on the political scoreboard. Rarely matters to The Man whether or not they got the right guy. Just putting someone inside is what counts in the funny papers.

One thought on ““Getaway Car”? Har!

  1. Con job says:

    Note this former armed robber, who, while he may have “never fired a gun on a job”, used one to intimidate his victims with the threat of death in order to get what he wanted.

    “…But to live outside the law, you must be honest” Bob Dylan, “Absolutely Sweet Marie” (1966)

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