Showing posts with label crooks. Show all posts
Showing posts with label crooks. Show all posts

03 February 2019

SleuthSayers versus Porch Pirates


porch pirate, package thief
My friend Thrush orders so much stuff on-line, Amazon built a warehouse near his residence. Last year a couple of deliveries went missing, odd computer parts of use only to him. Records showed they were placed at the door, but he didn’t receive them. That tends to defeat the goal of internet shopping of not leaving the house.

After this occurrence, I encountered the term ‘porch pirates’. It turns out some people make a habit of spotting deliveries, sometimes stalking FedEx and UPS trucks, to snatch parcels from the stoop before the owner can retrieve them.

Reports have surfaced of deliverymen too lazy or timid to dash through the rain or snow or sleet or hail or gloom of night for a delivery and simply recorded packages as delivered. Fortunately such skulduggery is rare. Snatch and grab is much more common.

Authorities seldom involve themselves in porch thievery. It’s pretty much up to the homeowner to police parcels. A number of surveillance cameras have caught the unwashed ungodly in the act of larceny and posted the results on YouTube. Sometimes customers get their goods back, sometimes they don’t.

Mark Rober’s Glitter Bomb
Mark Rober’s Glitter Bomb
Glitter Bomb in Action
Glitter Bomb in Action
Catching Crooks with Science, Science, Science…

NASA design engineer Mark Rober suffered the loss of a purloined package. When police refused help, he took matters into his own hands.

“It’s not rocket science,” he thought. And then, “Wait… Maybe it is.”

He built what has become known as the glitter bomb. The video explains better than I. Non-geeks might want to skip a couple of minutes past the two minute spot, but then we see the machine in action.

Apparently the public can now buy numerous, dumbed-down copycat versions of the original glorious glitter grenade. Jaireme Barrow’s company sells another device, a 12-gauge shotgun blank that explodes when stolen. Consider patronizing inventors for your porch pirates entertainment.

SleuthSayers to the Rescue

But wait, I thought. What if SleuthSayers built their own lanai larcenist Crime Stopper? What if we readers and writers cooked up a sadistic surprise for blatant banditos? In particular, why not a corpse, a bloodied, battered, putrefying remains of a body? Left amongst the severed parts might lie a note, maybe ransom, maybe threatening.

Not a real corpse, of course, but a facsimile masterpiece to gut those grabbers of goods. Surely our audience could come up with a masterpiece of vile verisimilitude to make a vandal vomit. (My alliteration runs amuck today.)

So I’m thinking Eve could bring her varied knowledge and experience to bear as project leader. Rob and David provide research and guidance. Mary and Melodie’s hospital trauma experience might aid artists. Fran brings us cosmetician knowledge, the know-how to make up a corpse. Surely Paul knows Hollywood makeup experts. Who are the artists among us? Janice for sure, maybe Michael or Lawrence? We need slightly mad writers to pen a frightening ransom note, surely Steve, Stephen and Barb. Brian’s exposure to the world of teens could prove helpful in choice of packaging– Xbox or iPad, none of that fuddy-duddy Dell stuff. I picture RT and O’Neil procuring a skeleton, not a real one but a classroom model smuggled out of Quantico. We’d rely upon John’s computer skills to man the 3D printer, stamping out faux phalanges and fingers, tarsals and teeth. What about our readers?

Flesh texture strikes me as a problem, although gross enough remains might deter curious pokes and probes. Say we want to apply tissue and rancid adipose upon a 3D-printed or purchased skull. Would a slab of jowl bacon be kosher? Or is there a plastic or polymer clay that firms a little but doesn’t become hard? Or would silicon work? Enquiring minds want to know.

Sony Aibo
What about eyes? The inner strata of decomposing onions or leek bulbs in eye sockets scare me thinking about it. What about rotting brain matter? Would dyed rice pudding or tapioca work? I never liked that stuff anyway, that icky larvae textures. Ugh. Who are the disturbed chemists among us? Enquiring minds so want to know.

Let’s say O’Neil and RT settle upon packaging from an Aibo, Sony’s expensive robot dog. The team packs the diabolical creation in the box. We apply fake labels, set it out on the stoop under the watchful eye of hidden, internet cameras, and it’s good to go.

And then… and then…

Nefarious package jackers arrive. The gluttonous, greedy gomers glom the heavy box, knowing Aibo’s a $1700 toy. They wrestle it to their get-away van. Jostling activates John’s cameras and GPS. O’Neil and RT track the package to a suspected neighborhood crack house where they find two men and a woman on their butts, flattened against the walls, shrieking in terror.

Authorities commit the traumatized thieves to the hospital’s mental health ward for observation. USPS and Amazon report a 13% reduction in package theft. SleuthSayers head for the nearest bar.

Who’s in?

A Hysterical History of Horror

Terror on Church Street monkish mascot

We must avoid the consequences undergone by my friend Robbie. Robbie Pallard worked for Disney as a designer when Terror on Church Street opened a downtown Orlando attraction, a block-long haunted two-storey mansion on steroids. This house of horror’s ghoulish attics and cellars bulged with cruelty and crime. A ghostly graveyard covered the results from its mad scientist labs.

ToCS picked Robbie to design their sets, mostly scenes from infamous horror movies. He tapped me to build their web site and a couple of props.

Their choice of Robbie wasn’t accidental– his reputation preceded him. He was once commissioned to decorate and stage a vignette for an upcoming Halloween party at a fancy, upscale house.

Sometime after completion, a visitor comes to the door. Getting no response from the doorbell, the nosy nelly peeks through windows. Moments later, the hysterical busybody phones police, screaming.

SWAT bursts in. They encounter a gut-turning scene… a tortured body hanging from the staircase. Underneath, a chainsaw rests on plastic sheeting. Cops race to track down the owners; the owners race to track down Robbie. He explains, owners explain, disbelief ensues, hilarity does not. Cops eventually go home. Busybody and news trucks go home disappointed no murder occurred.

The Demise of Terror

Terror on Church Street suffered a sad demise. Once the site of McCrory's 10¢ Store at 135 South Orange Avenue, the colorful and popular attraction provided employment for numerous students, vendors, and goths who could work in their natural habiliments without drawing personal criticism.

Terror on Church Street poster
Robbie Pallard in action
The attraction grew too popular for its own good. The building was a historical site, registered and protected by the local Historical Society. Unfortunately it sat on a very valuable square of land in one of America’s most popular cities. The shame that happened next made the nightly news.

In violation of the state’s Sunshine Law, the mayor and cronies met after hours in a closed door session. In an after-hours coup, they authorized demolition of the building. Wrecking ball cranes and bulldozers that had been standing by, were already moving into the city. Through the night, they flattened the building to rubble. By dawn, nothing was left of the building but shattered bricks. The Historical Society was furious a protected building had been destroyed in a nighttime fait accompli.

The mayor justified leveling the structure without due procedure by characterizing it as an imminent danger to the public, requiring immediate action. That morning, Code Enforcement was laughing, noting ToCS was one of the most inspected buildings downtown, regularly visited by building department officials and almost daily by fire inspectors.

The Historical Society wrung its hands; the destruction was complete. Within days, construction began on a $20-million tower. Political machinations constituted the real terror on Church Street.

06 November 2014

What Were They Thinking?


by Eve Fisher

As you all know, I do some volunteer work in the local penitentiary with the Alternatives to Violence Project (I promote that wherever I can!). Anyway, over the course of the last few years, I have learned that there are very few Moriaritys, Zecks, Penguins, or Lex Luthors in the criminal world. (There ARE lots of jokers, just not with a capital "J".) But of course, you will argue, they are the ones that got caught. True. And how did they get caught? So often, sheer stupidity.

The convicted felon on parole who posted a picture of himself on Facebook holding a gun and a beer: apparently it never occurred to him that his parole officer might keep track of social media.

University of Pittsburgh Professor Robert Ferrante is currently under arrest for poisoning his wife by giving her creatine (supposedly in hopes of stimulating egg production) that was either laced with or was really cyanide. Okay, clever, in a creepy sort of way: but he ordered the cyanide on-line, asking for overnight delivery, using his own credit card. I can hardly wait for the first Apple wallet poisoner… Hint to future poisoners - cash only.

Speaking of things you should never do - never try to sell drugs over the phone to total strangers. A Florida teenager tried this in 2007, when he got a wrong number and still offered to sell the person drugs: trouble was, he'd called the home number of a Florida cop. You can guess the rest.

I've always loved the Loomis Fargo Brinks robbers - David Scott Ghantt, Kelly Campbell and Steve Chambers - who from the get-go were out to get each other. Chambers always intended for Ghantt to take the fall, and, using Campbell as the intermediary, Chambers assumed that the FBI would never connect him to Ghantt or to the robbery. Ghantt was, indeed, the obvious suspect from the beginning. But what gave Chambers away was a massive spending spree that began with moving from his mobile home to a luxury house, and went on to include a BMW and a velvet Elvis painting. (As Jeff Foxworthy says, "You can't give red-necks money.") Campbell was also brilliant, going to the local bank and asking, "How much can I deposit before you have to report it to the feds? Don't worry, it isn't drug money." Hint: don't ever ask this at a bank. Look it up on-line. On someone else's computer.

Also, keep track of your stuff. In 2011 a man named Trevor Jones decided to rob a house in Atlanta. Let us make a list of the things he did wrong:
  1. He parked his car in the driveway.
  2. He left the front door wide open.
  3. He left his keys and wallet in his car.
So when the homeowner returned and saw all that, she took the wallet and keys and called the cops. But Trevor Jones continued to do stupid stuff. When he realized that his keys and wallet were gone, he went running into a nearby pond. (No, I have no idea why.) On the other side of the pond, he broke into another house where he used their computer (bad password, I'm assuming) to log into Facebook and post various stuff. He also left behind puddles wherever he went… And, when he left that house, he forgot to log out of Facebook…

And so, full circle, I leave you, pondering on velvet Elvis, credit cards, and Facebook.

File:Velvet Elvis Presley painting.jpg

25 February 2013

Ripped From The Headlines


Jan Grape People always ask writers: "Where do you get ideas?" Gosh, I dunno, maybe the news of the day, just ripped from the headlines. Two items that caught my attention this week:

Body in hotel tank: Cause may take weeks


An autopsy on a woman whose body was found in a hotel water tank in Los Angeles is complete, but the cause of death is deferred pending further examination, the Los Angeles County Coroner's Office said Thursday.
That may take six to eight weeks, according to Ed Winter, the assistant chief of the coroner's office.
The decomposing body of Elisa Lam, 21, of Canada, was found floating inside a water tank on the roof of the Cecil Hotel on Tuesday. The body was in the tank for as long as 19 days while guests brushed their teeth, bathed and drank with water from it, officials say.

One lady is reported to have thought the water tasted "funny" but finally chalked it up to the LA area having strange tasting water. (Taken from a CNN News Report)



Don't think about this too much, but maybe for the next few weeks or months people will carry bottled water with them. That won't help with bathing; at least what you drink will likely be pure.

My first thought when reading this was I wonder how many thriller/mystery books will come out next year with this idea as the premise? Someone on Facebook stated that one of the CSI-type shows had this as a story line a few years ago.

Maybe this next item should be in the "Stupid Crooks" column except this guy wasn't a crook. At least nothing was said about his rap sheet.

Woman 'shot' by exploding bullets in oven


A Florida woman is lucky to be alive after being 'shot' when a loaded handgun magazine exploded in an oven.
Aalaya Walker, 18, was visiting a friend when she turned on the oven to heat up some waffles, not realising he had hidden the magazine there earlier, the Tampa Bay Times reports.
When she went to investigate the resulting explosion, she was struck in the chest and leg by bullet fragments.

Ms Walker was able to remove the shrapnel before taking herself to hospital to be assessed. Her friend, Javarski Sandy, told police he had placed the magazine from his licenced Glock weapon in the oven with four rounds still in it.

"He stated that he does not have a temperature gauge on the oven so he estimates the temperature based on how far the knob is turned," the police report read. "I observed that the inside of the oven was damaged."

If being an idiot were an arrestable offense, Mr. Sandy would be in handcuffs by now but no charges have yet been laid. (Taken from a CNN News Report & Tampa Bay Times)



As most writers know truth is often stranger than fiction. I know writers who have written true stories in their manuscripts and an editor rejected them by saying "No one would believe that."

I've often said and think maybe have even mentioned in a column before that ideas are everywhere. I even have a strange feeling they're in the air and when you need one, you just reach for one. There have been times I've had an idea come to me and a short time later I would read or hear something about that same idea. Or would come across a book written by someone else using that same idea.

But I've also heard stories of authors already working on a book when the major premise of their book actually happened in the real world. Both times the author had to stop and give up on the idea because it was too close to the real events. The first was a writer friend who told of how he was writing a book about a famous athlete (not a football player) killing his wife and he was about three-fourths of the way to the ending of his book, when O.J. Simpson was accused of killing his wife. In my friend's book the athlete is caught burying the wife. The author gave up his book because by the time it came out everyone would think he had just "ripped" his story from the headlines.

The second, was current best-selling author Michael Connelly and he reports in his newsletter that he had a book almost complete that he had to give up because it dealt with school children being killed in an elementary school. But it's got to hurt an author to spend so much time developing the story and characters and then have to dump it. Michael had to do that, Newtown CT was too emotional.

I do know that many television shows of today are based on true stories or events of the day. One television show has used that idea to their successful advantage for many years.

So the next time someone asks you where you get your ideas, you know what to say: "Ripped From The Headlines."

25 November 2011

Flying Without a Parachute



There was a time early in my career when we wanted to get into a house, but had no probable cause for a legal entry. Without probable cause, any evidence found inside the residence becomes fruit of the poisonous tree. In short, this means any items found inside get thrown out as inadmissible evidence in court.
So here's how it all went down.

The Setup
A street informant called the office.
"Hey, you guys got a warrant for Bopper, don'tcha?"
"Yes, why?"
"Well at ten o'clock this morning, Bopper's gonna be at James Lewis' house to make a score."
CLICK.
The phone got hurriedly hung up, the troops got hatted up and we all headed out to James Lewis' place where his apartment consisted of the entire third floor. We set up surveillance and waited. Time passed. A blue Cadillac pulled up out front, two men got out and went into the house. Ten o'clock went by. One of the two men, a tall thin guy, came out of the house and returned to the Cadillac, sitting on the passenger side. More time passed. Then it started.
"Bopper's walking down the street," came the radio call.
"Wait," replied the case agent.
"He's headed for the house," said the radio voice.
"Wait," said the case agent.
"He's going up on the front porch."

"Not yet," ordered the case agent.

"He has his hand on the doorknob."
"Hit it now," barked the case agent.
Four government vehicles immediately came alive, screeching up to the front of the house and bouncing over the curb. Car doors opened and agents with drawn guns came screaming out, making as much noise as possible.
"Police!"
"Federal Agents!"

Survival Instincts: Fight or Flight
Bopper morphed into Panic Mode. Bless his heart, he ran into the house we wanted to enter, but hadn't previously been able to acquire probable cause for a legal entry. However, there are exigent circumstances known as Hot Pursuit for situations like these. When law enforcement is in immediate pursuit of a fleeing felon, a search warrant is not needed in order for officers of the law to enter the same building which the pursued felon has just entered during the chase.
Having now found himself inside James Lewis' house, and seeing no good exit, Bopper chose to ascend the stairs to the second floor. The Thundering Herd close behind him, still hollering "Police" and "Federal Agents," shifted into Hot Pursuit Mode.
Having now arrived at the second floor landing and still not finding a good way out, Bopper continued his desperate journey upward toward James Lewis' apartment on the third floor. In full hue and cry, the mob followed at his heels.

Breathe

Now, we take a short intermission to catch our breath and explain that in those days only seasoned agents had the privilige of entering the house. Snot-nose green agents, such as myself fresh out of the academy, were regularly assigned to the perimeter where nothing of consequence ever happened. Special Agent Pat got assigned to the back of the house and I got assigned to the front. We two newbies were designated to miss all the fun.
Bored, I decided to do something. Since the tall, thin Cadillac passenger had previously been inside the house, I thought maybe he'd be holding, so I knocked on the passenger window and flashed him my tin. In no time, I had him out of the car, hands on the roof, legs spread into the proper position and was patting him down. Just as I found contraband in his hip pocket, I heard a great noise behind me.
CRASH.
I glanced back at the house.

The Not (W)Right Brothers
Two bodies came flying out the front third-story windows and landed on top of the front porch roof. They stood up with guns in their hands. Neat.

A Sharp Drop in Business
Unknown to us, James Lewis already had company in attendance trying to conduct a little business. His company's nerves began to unravel as they noticed the Thundering Herd was ascending the stairs and coming their way. By the time Bopper burst into the room, their taut nerves snapped and they departed via the front windows.
At least now I had something to do.
Wheeling the tall, thin Cadillac passenger around in front of me, where I could keep an eye on him, I placed my gun hand on his right shoulder and pointed it at the two miscreants on the porch roof, ordering them to drop their weapons.
They looked at me, looked at their buddy the gun rest, looked at the distance to the ground and then decided, yeh, they'd drop their guns. Good thing. If there'd been a shooting match, I'm fairly certain my gun rest would have ended up hard of hearing in his right ear. Took another half hour before I had enough help to get them two off the porch roof.

One Landing for Every Launch
Back to inside the house. When Bopper made his Mad Hatter entrance into James Lewis' apartment, he was still looking for a rabbit hole. However, since all the front exits, also known as the third-story front windows, were occupied at the time, he opted for the side window. Bad choice as Bopper soon realized.
Left behind, James Lewis sat flabbergasted through it all. He'd never seen a show like this before and therefore sat quietly, readily giving up his two handguns, plus all his contraband to approaching members of the Thundering Herd.
Bopper, outside the house and now in mid-air, suddenly saw that what he had failed to consider during his hasty departure was that there was nothing to deaccelerate his downward flight, except a concrete driveway.
Turns out in all the confusion, none of us saw his exit.
At a descent rate of 32 feet per second per second, his right leg failed to stand up to the pressure of cement bringing an end to his ill advised experiment of flying without a parachute. He then crawled through a bordering hedge and "ran" away from us. Our Probable Cause had literally flown out the window. Took us an hour to catch up with him.

After that, I graduated to the level of door crasher.

So now you have the background. If you want to compare the above telling with the fictionalized published version, you'll have to acquire the Who Died in Here? anthology. All short story submissions to it required a crime in a bathroom. Author compensation was a sum of money, plus an air freshener. I still have the air freshener.