“What Were They Thinking?” Returns

Categorized as 10/12/09 Goshen News column

It’s time for the second installment in a series I started some months back entitled, “What Were They Thinking?” This is a compilation of stories pulled from police blotters around the world featuring tales of heists gone wrong and getaways gone bad.

Call me shallow, but these always cheer me up. After reading about the escapades of bungling burglars and clumsy crooks, I come away feeling positively bright; a regular Einstein, or at the least, a distant cousin.

Take, for instance, this story from Vermont where four buddies got tired of the same old Saturday night action and decided to switch things up. Would it occur to you to steal a giant chili pepper from the roof of your local Chili’s Grill and Bar? Me either. Back in my day, we TP’ed yards, soaped each other’s cars, and cruised Main Street. Well, my friends did. I was just along to keep a lid on things.

Anyway, that’s exactly what happened in Bennington, Vermont. After an alarm was triggered, police arrived to find one of the pranksters up on the roof, working on that pepper with a hacksaw and a power drill. They also found 470 feet of extension cord running from a nearby Home Depot, across the highway, and up to the roof.

“They really did some damage,” Sgt. Camillo Grande reported, adding that the bracket would have to be replaced. The four conspirators were eventually charged with attempted grand larceny for their pepper-picking plot.

I have two words for them: cordless drill.

The next two stories illustrate the wisdom of using duffle bags in any attempted robbery. The first one comes to us from Grand Rapids, Michigan, where an enterprising fellow tucked $300 worth of hunting knives into his waistband at a local Meijer store. When store employees confronted him, he tried to flee, but fell down and was stabbed by the hidden knives. This isn’t exactly what I’d call being shot with your own gun, but it’s real close.

The other story occurred in Fort Walton Beach where employees at a local grocery store noted that a customer was walking around “looking suspicious.” He was then observed concealing a 48-ounce package of bacon in the front of his pants. When they moved to intercept the bacon, the 22-year-old man ran to the back of the store and dumped it, according to police reports. He was charged with retail theft and resisting property recovery.

As Mr. Schrock once said, tongue in cheek, when one of the boys swallowed a small bead belonging to someone else, “It doesn’t matter how you bring it home, it’s still stealing.”

A word of advice for would-be criminals: plan your getaways carefully. Doing a snatch-and-run without a flight plan is risky, which one purse snatcher found out the hard way.

According to Detroit police, the suspect broke his right leg after getting it tangled up in the seat belt when he tried to bail out of the moving vehicle. After being dragged for several hundred feet, he was easily caught.

Officers noted that during the chase, the suspect diligently used his turn signals. He was charged with unarmed robbery and fleeing, eluding, resisting, and obstructing police, but not, thank goodness, with failure to signal a turn.

In other robbery news, London police reported that the driver of a stolen car involved in an early-morning accident jumped from the vehicle and fled on foot. His progress was hindered when he ran smack into a telephone pole. He got up and tried to sprint again, but was arrested.

Maybe when his head stops pounding and the buzzing in his ears subsides, he can sit and ponder just what went wrong. He’ll have plenty of time, that’s for sure.

Lastly, we learn that having a getaway driver with two good arms is essential for a solid escape. This was a hard lesson learned by a gang of jewel thieves in Essex, England.

After a daring raid, four gang members jumped into their idling vehicle where the fifth henchman was hunkered in the driver’s seat. With police in pursuit, they took off. Unfortunately, things went south when the passengers had to help the driver shift due to the fact that he had no arms below his elbows. He was able, police say, to drive 30 miles before crashing.

One can only hope that they’ll conduct that interview differently next time. If, of course, there is a next time.

Lastly, it was poor penmanship that did one bank robber in. A woman in Hillsboro, Oregon, walked into a Wells Fargo branch recently and handed the teller a note that was supposed to say, “Need three hundred dollars or I’ll kill you. I’m serious.” When the teller handed it back, stating that she was unable to read the writing, the thief stepped away to rewrite the note on a bank slip, giving the employee time to activate the silent alarm.

Note to criminal: “Need brain or you’re in big trouble. I’m serious.”

This is just chockfull of good reminders for us. Perhaps the biggest lesson is that no matter who’s bringing the bacon home, you should always, always check to see how, exactly, it was delivered. Believe me, it matters.

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