Showing posts with label Criminal Behaviour. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Criminal Behaviour. Show all posts

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The LA Times Homicide Report

The LA Times Homicide Report is fascinating for a number of reasons.

The sheer, non-stop parade of senseless murders is probably what brings most people back to the blog. It's hard to comprehend that such violence plays out so consistently in one geographic area. But there it is, every day, with new reports of lives ended.

Ostensibly, as mentioned in its About page, one of the motives behind the Report is to chronicle the deaths of every single person murdered in LA county. In the past, many murders would go unreported. The race and socioeconomic background of a victim often determines how much play a murder gets in the Los Angeles media (and many other jurisdictions as well).

Desensitized to Violence

So, the Report tries to address that failing of the mainstream media. And it makes a pointed effort to include the race of everyone murdered within LA county. If one goal is to give a name to every single murder victim, then the Report succeeds in that respect. But unfortunately, just as with the thousands slaughtered every year in various conflicts around the globe, you feel desensitized to the overwhelming nature of it all. I just can't force myself to feel for most of the victims, as much as I would like to.

This sense that a person should feel something but isn't quite able, is what drives people to set up those sad tributes to high profile murder cases, or the deaths of famous people. It's as if the act of leaving a teddy bear for someone you never knew will convince yourself and others that you are a caring person.

The narrative that surrounds the murder of a stranger is what determines whether or not you feel something. Which is an indication that, despite the humanity that should exist between fellow humans, it doesn't. Unless of course you know the individual who was killed. Or the script contains all the necessary elements so that it elicits empathy.

Which is why we should all recognize the importance of the arts in helping us to feel something about people whose deaths would otherwise be meaningless to us. Books, movies, music, paintings—they are not just distractions, they help us to feel. Which is also why the homicide report posts that include the most detail and use narrative elements more common in fiction are also more likely to make readers feel something.

Bathos and Nastiness

The occasional homicide report victim does get to me. There is usually some kind of bathetic element in the write-up that makes it real. Something that makes an image rise up in my mind of this person as a living, breathing individual who was cut down for some meaningless slight.

Or an extremely despicable incident that robs someone of their life for no other reason than they were at the wrong place at the wrong time in the vicinity of a murdering piece of filth:
Gomez, 92, was a neighborhood fixture, still spry enough to walk the streets for exercise in the mornings, picking up recyclables for extra cash as she went along. On Feb. 2., 2006, she left home dressed in a layer of clothes topped with a red jacket, and pushing a cart to carry cans and bottles, as was her routine.

Somebody stabbed her repeatedly and left her body in front of an apartment complex at 9034 Willis Ave. just south of Nordhoff Street and west of Van Nuys Boulevard.
Of course, there is another reason the report is so popular.When you read about tragedy befalling others, it has the odd effect of increasing your sense of well-being by making you realize that something horrible hasn't happened to you. Yet.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Criminal Behaviour: Impersonation

This is an odd little scam that pops up once in a while. Someone posing as a former or current professional sports player and convincing people to hand over money for the privilege of spending time with them. This latest fraudulent, scheming example from Ottawa, Canada:
A formerly drug-addicted con man who posed as a former NHL player to dupe hospital patients out of money says he now hopes to help others overcome their addictions and avoid making the same mistakes he has.

I'm trying to get my head around exactly how this scam works. There's no mystery as to why so many individuals go around telling people they're someone they're not. They lead sad desperate impostor and Stephane Richerlives and dream of the wealth and recognition that many professional sports players have. No, the puzzlement is over how easily they seem to sucker so many people. I'm thinking of the conversation between two individuals in a seedy pub somewhere:

"Fancy that! Joe Montana in Shitheels, Arkansas! And right here in the seediest bar in town! I'm truly blown away!"

"Why do you think an incredibly wealthy, famous, accomplished person would find his way here, approach you, and out of the blue, announce who he is? It's a bit odd, don't you think?"

"I never really considered that."

"It's a bit strange that he just asked you for money as well."

"I don't know, you think so? Don't you suppose people with hundreds of millions of dollars often find themselves a bit strapped for cash? Maybe he doesn't like to carry a lot with him."

"But he doesn't even look like Joe Montana. This lad's morbidly obese and about five feet tall. Anyway, we could always search online for a picture of Joe Montana just to be sure."

"I think I'll just hand over the rest of my welfare cheque. It's a bit easier that way. Anyway, it increases the likelihood that we can have starring roles in our own pathetic, white trash soap opera."


A quick google scan brings up a few dozen similar cases. It's truly remarkable.

Man Impersonates Steeler Quarterbacks (notice the plural)

Man Impersonates Baseball Player

Man Impersonates Basketball Player

Of course, most creeps aren't as insidious as the impostor in Ottawa who decided to prey on sick children and their parents. Here's what he had to say after he was caught:

Outside court, Mr. Richer said since his arrest, he has committed his life to Christ and is now taking life "one day at a time."

At least he's stopped playing make believe.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Criminal Behaviour: Threats

Firkin Upper StreetYears ago I worked in a pub in London, England. It was located on Upper Street in Islington, a neighbourhood that was moving upscale but, like most of the city, still had its share of decent lower class residents and a heaping of scum. There were plenty of pubs along the stretch where I worked.

Because it was on the high street, numerous people blundered in simply to use the toilets. Some felt the need to order a quick half a pint, take a sip, duck into the toilets, and then return to slug back their drink and be on their way. Leaving us to wonder if they were trapped in a hell of forever nipping in to subsequent establishments to buy the obligatory token drink, draining their bladders and continuing on.

Others had no reservations about striding in to use the loo and then leaving without a word of acknowledgment. This was annoying because the task of cleaning toilets was down to the bar staff. Also, more than a few heroin users shot up in the bogs and left their used needles on the floor.

So we banged up a sign stating that only patrons could use the toilets. This worked for the most part.

One afternoon a group of regulars was knocking back pints in the pub. A rare graveyard shift with some activity and a buzz happening. I was in one of those moods that allowed me to play the raconteur. Pulling pints and engaging in some give and take with the posties who drank during any available free time they had.

A well dressed man walked in and made straight for the toilets. A few moments later he exited and was leaving the pub. I loudly said, "Thanks! Come again!"

He surged towards the bar and castigated me for daring to draw attention to him, assuring me he had spent plenty of money here in the past.

Still playing to the crowd of drinkers watching this little spectacle, I further mocked him to the sniggers and cheers of my audience. He stormed out and I continued to milk the incident for all it was worth.

phone handsetLater on that day, after the afternoon drinkers had cleared out and the early evening vibe was taking shape, the telephone behind the bar rang.


"I'm gonna pay someone to do you in!"


I banged the phone down.

It was obviously the agitated toilet user I had called out earlier in the afternoon. His lame threat sounded so contrived it was almost laughable. His epithet for black people was a word not usually used in Britain, even by racists. It's as if he recognized that I wasn't a Brit and came up with some lame concoction he thought would rattle me based on stereotypes from Hollywood movies.

Still, it did give me pause. Over the next few days I probably scanned the crowd a few more times and with closer scrutiny than usual.


And that is the most obvious reason why people make threats. To a large degree, they work. Anyone who says otherwise is being disingenuous or has never been on the receiving end.

Relative to the amount of effort required, a threat is one of the most effective fear-inducing tactics in the miscreant's trick bag. And, the likelihood of being caught is low. Even if a verbal threat is not made anonymously, police are unlikely to act unless the person making the threat is known to them, or there is some kind of audio or video recording.

Correlation to Action

It would be hard to quantify the number of threats made to the times actions actually are carried out. It's safe to say that most people who make threats never go any further simply because those who are serious about committing a crime usually don't want to be caught.

That's cold comfort for victims of stalkers, who seem to have fully embraced their obsessive lunacy and often preclude violent attacks with nasty threats.

Terrorists as well trade in the business of spreading mind-numbing fear before following through with some cold blooded human destruction.

In this age of hysteria, threats are probably taken more seriously by more people than at any time in history.


Most men who are threatened try to appear dismissive while a sliver of apprehension crawls up their spine. When a threat is made by someone with a violent reputation, the reaction can be more visceral and the attempts to hide fear pointless.

Unfortunately, women no doubt suffer more than men when they are threatened. On the other hand, they may receive more attention and their claims may be given more credibility when they file a complaint with police.

There is no fail-safe way to respond. Bravado may spur some on to carry out their threats while others may be emboldened by a frightened response.

Use your own instincts and your knowledge of the creep in question to take appropriate action. There's a fine line between over-reaction and self-preservation.