Stupid Criminal Tricks and the case for error-free crime.
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From: Peter Langston <psl>
Date: Fri, 13 Jun 97 16:13:47 -0700
Subject: Stupid Criminal Tricks and the case for error-free crime.
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It has become commonplace to read in our newspapers of a crime somewhere in
America amusingly bungled by the criminal's ineptitude. Droll though these
news items may be, they reflect an overlooked cost of our current national
crisis in education. The basic learning skills of criminals have
deteriorated to a shocking degree.
Consider the following:
o A bank robber in Bumpus, Tenn., handed a teller the following note:
"Watch out. This is a rubbery. I hav an oozy traned on your but.
Dump the in a sack, this one. No die packkets or other triks or I will
tare you a new naval. No kwarter with red stuff on them, too."
Dr. Creon V.B. Smyk of the Ohio Valley Educational Council says such notes
are, lamentably, the rule. "Right across the board, we see poor pre-writing
skills, problems with omissions, tense, agreement, spelling and clarity,"
Smyk believes that the quality of robbery notes could be improved if
criminals could be taught to plan before writing. "We have to stress
organization: Make an outline of your robbery note before you write it,"
he said. "Some of the notes get totally sidetracked on issues like the
make, model and caliber of the gun, number of bullets, etc., until one loses
sight of the main idea -- the robbery."
o In Bent Forks, Ill., kidnapers of ice-cube magnate Worth Bohnke
sent a photograph of their captive to Bohnke's family. Bohnke was
seen holding up a newspaper. It was not that day's edition and, in
fact, bore a prominent headline relating to Nixon's trip to China.
This was pointed out to the kidnapers in a subsequent phone call.
They responded by sending a new photograph showing an up-to-date
newspaper. Bohnke, however, did not appear in the picture. When
this, too, was refused, the kidnapers became peevish and insisted that
a photograph be sent to them showing all the people over at Bohnke's
house holding different issues of _Success_ magazine. They provided
a mailing address and were immediately apprehended. They later
admitted to FBI agents they did not understand the principle involved
in the photograph/newspaper concept. "We thought it was just some
kind of tradition," said one.
Educators agree that such mix-ups point to poor reasoning and comprehension
skills, ignorance of current events, and failure to complete work in the
o Burglars in Larch Barrens, Md., tried to cut through a safe using a
Lazer Tag gun.
o Industrial thieves broke into the Bilgetek plant in Canasta, Wash.,
by crossing a metal catwalk and then blew it up, having forgotten it
was their only means of escape.
o Rustlers in Spavin, N.D., made off with three Saint Bernard dogs, a
stationary bicycle and the visiting in-laws of a farmer, after having
failed to correctly identify the valuable cattle on the premises.
"No problem-solving abilities, no communication skills, no 'plays and
relates well with others,' no nothing," FBI regional director J. Paine
Bloomey said, reviewing the state of modern criminality. "We are talking
plain, flat-out, hard-boiled, stupid as pea turkeys." By contrast, Japanese
criminals score in the range 10 to 15 points higher than their American
counterparts in basic skills tests. In the Japanese underworld, it is
considered a matter of honor to execute a thoughtful, grammatical,
Still, experts such as Smyk stop short of demanding a total overhaul of the
educational system. "For all their acumen," he says, "Japanese criminals
wind up sacrificing a lot of the joie de vivre you see in our guys."
© 1997 Peter Langston