From "CSI" shows to blockbuster movies and a neverending stampede of best-selling books, crime has become a cottage industry -- a commercial juggernaut. But these efforts probably--at least partly--glorify crime, depicting it as a field of intriguing capers pulled off by mastermind criminals. But in reality, crime is, well, dumb; it's a field of bumblers with inoperative impulse controls. But if we keep depicting it breathlessly in culture through dramatizations and reenactments, kids will want to grow up to be criminals. To stem the chance, I am hereby writing my first of what will be a semi-regular "Crummy Local Criminals" column.
Devouring local police blotters from across Westchester and Connecticut, I am now piecing together some of the dopiest, goofiest and most ungainly criminal activities. It is the sort of stuff that brings dishonor to the true concept of successful crime, the kind championed over the years by Al Capone, Bernie Madoff and endless members of Congress. Here's a sampler:
This priceless, timeless headline from The Greenwich Time says it all: "Man Shoots Self While Going to Bathroom." The incident in question was apparently an accident the man lied about. Who'da thunk Plaxico Burress chic would prove inspiring?
And shouldn’t crime have some potential upside? Apparently not. A customer in New Haven's Owl Shop, a cigar café, was apparently waging a one-man crime wave to no apparent end. He was asked to leave the establishment and refused. The police arrived, repeated the request and the man still refused. He just continued banging a piece of metal on the table. Although he didn’t even manage to steal a thin dime, the unruly cigar smoker was arrested and, in his mug shot, stuck his tongue out at the camera. Somewhere, Willie Sutton is rolling in his grave.
Forget the movie, “Con Air.” At first glance it looked like we had Con Bus -- right on the New York State Thruway. This week a bus carrying inmates to an upstate facility overturned. Luckily, no one was hurt…or went missing.
The oldest holiday prank in the book is also among the most despicable: steal the baby from the manger. In some college towns, ransom notes have been written. What’s frustrating for anyone who cares about religious freedom and common decency is that these pranksters never seem to be apprehended. That is until a pair of inebriated geniuses in Pearl River was, incredibly, caught in the act and arrested. Then, an even stranger twist: The Journal News reported that baby Jesus is still being held in the evidence room.
Any other crummy local crime in your neck of the woods? Let me know in the comment section below. And keep those eyes peeled.
Marek Fuchs is the author of "A Cold-Blooded Business," the true story of a murderer who almost got away with it. His upcoming book on volunteer firefighting across America, “Local Heroes,” is due out this year. He wrote The New York Times' "County Lines" column about life in Westchester for six years and teaches non-fiction writing at Sarah Lawrence College, in Bronxville. When not teaching or writing, he is a volunteer firefighter. Find Marek on Twitter: @MarekFuchs.