To Catch a Burglar | Connecticut Public Radio

To Catch a Burglar

Nov 2, 2016

George Leonidas Leslie robbed the Manhattan Savings Institution of $3 million in 1878. At the time, it was considered one of the safest buildings in the world. He made detailed models of the bank and its vault from blueprints he charmed from a bank employee. 

Burglars have been robbing buildings for thousands of years. Burglary is hard-wired into our architecture. If a building stands, a burglar will find ways to get inside and use structures intended to protect us against us: fire escapes, ledges, fire codes, drainpipes, elevator shafts, rooftops, sliding glass doors. We don't see space in the same way a burglar sees it.

If burglary is dependent on built space, police and security are dependent on burglary. Cops and robbers dance an intricate dance, each vying to stay one step ahead of the other to maintain the false sense of security we need to believe exists. 

Yet, the burglar as the gentleman thief, the detailed craftsman, the anti-hero, are deeply embedded in American culture. We are jealous of the omnipotent and ingenious burglar unencumbered by spatial barriers, able to take the elevator shaft when the elevator won't suffice. 

The reality of burglary is harsher than the myth. George Leonidas Leslie was murdered by his own crew before he got to rob his bank.


  • Geoff Manaugh - Author of NYT Bestselling, Burglar’s Guide to the City, which was recently picked-up by CBS Studios to produce a pilot. He also writes BLDGBLOG, an acclaimed online architecture site.  
  • Steve Hamilton - Two-time Edgar Award-winning author of thirteen crime novels, including The Lock Artist in 2011. His most recent book was this year’s New York Times bestselling The Second Life of Nick Mason. Both of these books are currently in film development.

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Colin McEnroe and Chion Wolf contributed to this show.