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Kidnapping of Lindbergh Baby Is Climax of Nation-Wide Abduction Racket

March 3, 1932

Spurred by the world interest in the son of Colonel Lindbergh and by Commissioner Mulrooney's characterization of the kidnapping as "a vicious outrage," the entire New York Police Department plunged yesterday into the hunt for the child and the persons who took him.

It was the greatest police effort in the history of the city. Every man of the entire 19,000 on the force was put on the case, with orders to work on it in their own time as well as during their hours on duty, doing without sleep if necessary. In addition the families of all members of the police force were instructed to be on the alert for any information concerning strange babies in their neighborhoods or for any unusual actions which might throw a light on the crime. It was the first time in history that such an action had been taken.

Meanwhile, the whole vast machinery that the Police Department can set in motion to guard the gates of the city and check up on its residents had been put in motion. Every approach to the city by tunnel, ferry boat, train and highway was watched, and virtually a house-to-house search was begun in the congested districts where criminals with such delicate booty as the Lindbergh baby would be most likely to hide.

Hospitals and Hotels Searched

Detectives and patrolmen began a painstaking search of hospitals, hotels, nursing homes and the like. This phase of the search was aided by the Children's Society under the direction of General Manager Ernest K. Coulter and Superintendent Vincent Pisarra. Twenty-two agents of the society began a tour of the baby farms and homes where children are boarded, urging the proprietors to examine carefully all children brought to them. There are 196 baby farms listed in Manhattan and probably fifty or more which are not listed.

But despite the energy and thoroughness of the search, nothing definite concerning the whereabouts of the Lindbergh child had been found last evening.

Commissioner Mulrooney, who went to his office immediately on learning of the kidnapping on Tuesday night to direct New York's participation in the search, addressed more than 200 detectives and higher police officials yesterday morning at lineup, telling them with evident intensity of feeling to leave no stone unturned to find the child.

Entire Force Put on Case

"I want the department commanders to have their uniformed men make investigations in the areas of the city where the kidnappers might hide out," said Mulrooney. "I want them to be alert and on their toes to follow any clue, no matter how slight. The kidnappers may try to hide themselves and the child in some congested area of the city, and every patrolman must comb his beat for newcomers. I want every patrolman to make inquiries in the tenements and wherever a child might be kept.

"I want every detective to take advantage of the slightest piece of information about this case. I want the entire department to work on this case in its time off, to go without sleep if necessary to find this child. Every policeman on beat must make full inquiries about any one entering a building with a child."

Later the Commissioner sent the following order by teletype to stations throughout the five boroughs:

"Colonel Lindbergh's baby, a boy, 19 months old, dressed in a sleeping suit, was kidnapped between 7:30 P.M. and 10 P.M., March 1, 1932, from the Lindbergh home in Hopewell, N. J. All members of the force will be particularly vigilant in an effort to recover the baby and arrest the kidnappers. Special attention will be given to and careful inquiry and a thorough investigation will be made in thickly populated, congested residential districts, hospitals, nurseries and hotels, particularly the small and cheaper ones."

Search Expected to Be Short

There was a feeling at headquarters, based on previous experience with kidnappers, that unless the child was returned within seventy-two hours, either with or without the payment of the ransom, he would be abandoned. Detectives predicted that the kidnappers would realize within this period that there was such an enormous interest in the Lindbergh case that their wisest course would be to give up their attempt at extortion and flee. Some detectives thought that the abductors of the Lindbergh baby might be the same persons who threatened in 1920 to abduct Miss Constance Morrow, the baby's aunt, who was then a student at Milton Academy. The details of this attempt were never made public.

The very daring of the crime inclined the police to believe that the kidnappers were not of the "professional" type, which has been increasingly active in recent years, but that they were persons who had somehow obtained information about the layout of the Lindbergh home and the habits of the household and had determined to profit by that knowledge without realizing what it would involve.

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