Work Smarter Not Harder, Right?

“Sly smuggler uses Border Patrol for free trips home,”

Time is money.

I’m not a businessman but I’ve seen Shark Tank enough to understand the phrase.

In law enforcement we have another phrase, “You don’t catch the smart ones,”

That’s usually because the would-be criminal mastermind failed to see a weakness in their particular scheme and it got him caught. Maybe a drug dealer didn’t quite know his customers as well as they should have and ended up ripped or selling to an undercover cop, something like that.

More often than not, criminals commit crime because of greed. People sell dope, commit fraud, rob banks, or in this case guide people across the U.S.-Mexico border for profit, as a way of bypassing the career ladder on the way to wealth. When some meth dealer with no job, living in the back room of grandma’s trailer is suddenly driving an eighty-thousand-dollar pick-up truck, police tend to notice. When the dude gets wrapped up because he didn’t have the patience to keep driving a shitty 1995 Honda Civic while setting up a fake auto detail business or some other way to hide his money we say,

“Well, you don’t catch the smart ones,”

While I can’t speak for every cop, and my frame of reference is dated, I always bet that there was some guy or girl out there, probably an army of them, who had the simple discipline to stay off the radar, live humbly, run their schemes, be patient, and cash out down the road. Like Andy in The Shawshank Redemption. In fact, I always wanted to meet one of them, and by meet, I mean arrest. Mostly because I wanted to be able to point to her (It would be a her because chicks are way smarter and patient than dudes) and say,

“Look! We got a smart one!”

I even wrote a disciplined drug kingpin into one of my books, Where Angels Sing. The guy’s name was Harold Washington. He owned a laundry mat, drove a crappy old truck, and just so happened to be the invisible force controlling all the illicit drug trade on the west side of Charleston, SC. I’m not going to say anymore on the off chance you haven’t scratched Where Angels Sing off your summer reading list yet, no spoilers, but worth the read.

Anyway, when I look at this story, it’s one of those where, if I was the Border Patrol guy making the arrest, I’d be hard pressed not to give Mr. Javier Ernesto Ayala-Osuna a little fist bump. If for nothing else then to say,

“Glad we caught you, but, good scam amigo,”

Not to get political, but our border is a shit show. Mr. Ayala brought illegals over the line then turned himself in to the Border Patrol for a free ride home. That’s not only brilliant, it’s a hilarious bit of ingenuity. It makes you wonder how he came to take the chance on a free ride home in the first place.

Maybe one hot, arid, desert day, he was out of water, or running late for a date back in Mexico, who knows. Either way Ayala finds himself hiding out in the bushes ducking patrols when he says to himself,  

“Fuck it, what’s the worst that could happen?”

He turns himself in, a little apprehensive about the gamble. But then he gets some water, hot food, and a free trip home to not only in time to make his date, but also get a head start on his next adventure leading illegal aliens through the United States backdoor. Like I said, brilliant, maximizing efficiency of operation while at the same time tricking your adversaries into taking some of the burden off your shoulders.

According to the story he did it six times. That’s six trips, $8,000 per head, four to six people at a time for a total of around $288,000 give or take. Can’t hold it against the guy for giving that career path a hard look. Don’t get me wrong coyotes should go to jail, along with the people who pay to be smuggled over the border. But if we as a nation are going to have such senseless policies as catch and release and leave the barn door wide open, you can’t hold it against a good capitalist for trying to get his.

The story notes that Mr. Ayala was only caught because his charges (so to speak) turned him in when they got stopped as a group by the border patrol. That brings me back to my initial rant. “We don’t catch the smart ones,” we do catch the coyotes who decide to let themselves get caught with the people they are smuggling. I guess it never occurred to Ayala that they would turn him in once they realized their journey to the land o’ plenty would hook a hard detour into a DHS detention center. Oh, and that they were out a few thousand dollars for their troubles. In the end it reads like Mr. Ayala got a little too complacent in his scheme. That being said, he did get away with it six times before getting caught so maybe we do catch the smart ones. We just have to wait and catch’em when their guards down.

Reference:

Sly smuggler uses Border Patrol for free trips home – Washington Times

Oh, Mayor Mike, Never a Cop Around When You Need One Huh?

Authors Note: This is a work of fiction, a Parody no less so relax. Names and places have been changed to protect the ignorant and misguided. Though this is technically not a story about a stupid criminal, this statement was so ignorant, if I wasn’t such a freedom of speech advocate I would want the man in jail. Anyway…

Mayor Mike Ellyott of Brooklyn Heights, Minnesota is headed home after a long day of pondering what it will be like when a police officer no longer needs a gun to enforce the law. Over brunch he and his advisors had a long and deep conversation about all the ways an armed police force only adds stress to the city. How guns themselves are a long-standing threat to peace. If no one had guns there wouldn’t be violence in the streets. People could carry out their days without having to look over their shoulder every time a black and white police car drove by.

The idea of police cars being black and white even became its own discussion. Why are police cars black and white? So stark. Karen, Mayor Mike’s civic Empowerment Council chair and long-time confidant from their days as women’s studies majors at the University of Phoenix had made a great point.

“Certain colors are more stressful than others,” she’d said, “Why not find colors that foster calm? That way the public stress is lowered, the police will be less stressed, and the cars themselves would brighten up Brooklyn Heights,”

Mayor Mike was not usually an impulse decision maker, but Karen’s suggestion felt right in his bones.

“Let’s do it,” he’d said.

A quick Google search of relaxing color palettes and they decided right there, purple and a muted grey. They even decided to change the department’s uniforms to a muted grey to match.

Monty, his Recreation Director made a good point, “The Minnesota Football team (He couldn’t recall the name) was purple. Some people love sports, this is going to be a hit!”

Being Mayor was a tough job but tonight Mayor Mike pulled his Smart Car into his driveway carrying a big smile on his face. He had been a little nervous after the press conference. The thing he said about guns and traffic stops just came out. It’s usually not smart for a politician to speak from the heart. But it had worked, his friends were so supportive.

Mayor Mike grabbed his canvas tote from the passenger seat and was walking up his step when he noticed his front door looked…off. The latch was open. It was only and inch or two, but it was open.

That’s odd, he thought. Maybe Rosetta, his housekeeper, left the door open again. She’d done it before.

“Hello?” he called as he walked in. He turned on lights as he made his way from the foyer to the kitchen. As he passed a doorway between the kitchen and the living room, he noticed another anomaly standing out from the norm of his household.

It was dark in there, but Mayor Mike distinctly saw a man standing in his living room.

He had a knife in his hand.

Time stood still for a moment. Mayor Mike and the armed intruder in a standoff. Then it moved, he swore the man with the knife moved but Mayor Mike could not be sure. With a shriek of animalistic terror so high in decibel a chardonnay glass on the counter shattered Mayor Mike ran for his life. His feet scrambling, he ran in a blind panic. With no direction or thought, he sprinted right past the hallway leading to the back door of the house and up the stairs. He locked himself in the bathroom, screaming like a banshee the whole time.

He locked the door and threw a towel hanging from the hamper at it. Then he threw the entire hamper and its contents at the door. Mayor Mike stopped screaming when he backed into the toilet and almost fell in the bowel. He clawed at his pocket for his phone. His fingers would not respond to his commands when he tried to hit the emergency dial.

Finally, the connection started ringing,

Once…

Twice…

Three times…

“Come onnnn,” he whined.

“911 what is the nature of your emergency?” A dispassionate female voice asked.

“Mmm, bla, mmer, blah!” Mayor Mike was so scared he’d lost the ability to speak.

“Ma’am please, try and calm down. What is your address?’

“912 Folsom, this is the mayor!” Mayor Mike cried.

“What is your emergency…Sir?”

“Man! Knife! In my house!” he spurted. “He’s in my house,”

The dispatcher didn’t miss a beat. She transitioned to the Police frequency while maintaining the same unflappable tone, “All units in the vicinity, possible Burglary with weapon at 912 Folsom Street. Complainant states an individual with a knife is in his home,”

Mayor Mike heard the call go out, “Tell them it’s the Mayor!”

There was a pause, “You sure Sir?”

“Yes, hurry,” was the desperate reply.

Another pause, then, “Be advised, it’s the mayor’s residence,”

Unit 3-1-3, at Avondale and Main Street had just stopped for a traffic light when the dispatcher took to the air waves. She interrupted an incredibly involved conversation,

“No, I mean how else do they have a dress unless they ate the last chick they came across?” asked Hammond, driving down the point with a knife hand to the palm.

Burman was driving, “I can’t stress enough how little I care about space bears or Star Wars,” he said in a gruff voice.

“They’re not space bears, they’re Ewoks,” Hammond blurted.

“Still don’t care,”

The car radio crackled, “All units in the vicinity, possible Burglary with weapon at 912 Folsom Street. Complainant states an individual with a knife is in his home,” a dispatcher named Trisha announced.

Hammond grabbed the microphone from its cradle, but he couldn’t trigger the talk button before the dispatcher added, “Be advised, it’s the mayor’s residence,”

Hammond and Burman froze. The microphone in Hammond’s hand dropped an inch.

“BWAHH, HAHAHA! HAHAHA!” The two patrolmen lost it.

There wasn’t a cop in Minnesota that hadn’t heard Mayor Mikes comments on whether or not Police need to have guns when conducting certain traffic stops. What an asshole. And what a horribly stupid thing to say. Statistically, police are more likely to be killed during a traffic stop than any other operational activity, and this guy was supposed to be their leader.

Burnam’s eyes were tearing up. Hammond patted him on the shoulder,

“SHH! SHH!” He knew dispatch had the geolocation of all the squad cars and they were only six blocks away. They had to answer up. He had to hold his breath for a second to keep from cracking up when he went over the air.

“Control,” he wheezed, “Show 3-1-3 in route,” Hammond flipped on the overhead blue and red lights and blipped the siren.

Burnam didn’t peel out to burn the red light like he usually did.

“What are you doin?” asked Hammond.

Burman pointed to the red light above, “Obey all traffic laws,” he said.

“Huh?”

“You didn’t read the updates. Mayor Mike sent a memo last week stating that police, fire, and EMS will do their upmost to emphasize the safety and concern of the public,”

Hammond sat back in his seat, “So out of all people Mayor Mike would not want us to put the public in jeopardy only on his account,”

“No way,” commented Burnam.

“Course not,”

That same moment Mayor Mike screamed, “Help Me!” in Dispatcher Trisha’s ear.

The light turned green but no other cars in any of the four lanes surrounding the intersection moved until Burnam pulled responsibly from the line. He accelerated to the exact speed limit, 35 mile per hour.

“Very responsible,” said Hammond,

“Safety first,” replied Burnam.

The black and white patrol car drove down the main thoroughfare traversing Brooklyn Heights at thirty four miles an hour, a horde of cars backing up behind them. The patrolmen made it though two more lights before the next changed from green to yellow. Burnam slowed to a stop before it went red. The intersection all around them was a ghost town as vehicles to the left and right were not willing to cut off the police car with lights flashing.

“Clear?” asked Burnam.

Hammond studied the intersection for ten seconds, “Clear,” he confirmed.

Burnam activated his right blinker and slowly made the turn. He gingerly attained the speed limit before slowing again. A woman walking her dog was looking to cross. She looked at the flashing car. Both the woman and her dog’s head cocked in the same curious way. Hammond lowered his window and waved her across.

“Courteous,” said Hammond.

“Mmm hmpf,”

The patrol car returned to the speed limit four more blocks before Burman again activated his blinker, the left this time. He came to a stop. A beige Chrysler minivan was fifty yards away traveling in their direction. The police officers waited patiently until the confused woman behind the wheel came to a stop opposite them. Hammond waved to her as a means of thanking her as they turned.

Dispatcher Trisha clicked across the radio, “The mayor states he can hear the party in his house. 3-1-3 what’s your ETA?” In the background a high-pitched crying could be heard amongst a muted chorus of laughter.

“Control show us on scene,”

Burnam cut the lights and pulled to the curb one house down. He and Hammond exited the car, softly clicking the doors shut. It was dusk but still light enough to see without their flashlights. The unholstered their service issue Glock 22’s and approached Mayor Mike’s house. From the driveway they could see the front door was closed.

“Control can the mayor come to the door?” Burnam asked in his shoulder mic.

Trisha keyed the microphone but all they could hear over the channel, and from inside the house was a desperate, “Please God Help Me!”

Burnam and Hammond looked at each other, “Sounds exigent,” Hammond stated.

“Control, we’re making entry, give us the channel,”

“All unit’s clear channel for 3-1-3,”

Burnam took point and after getting set at the front door he put a boot to it, splintering the frame and denting the locking mechanism. The two flowed into the foyer shouting, “Police! Police! Come out with your hands up!”

The two cops moved in sync from door to door, clearing hallways and other potential danger areas. All the while they heard mumbled cries, from upstairs. As they came to the living room Burnam covered the kitchen as Hammond sliced the pie, revealing the living room before him step by step. When he saw a figure standing in the center of the room he shouted, “Don’t move!”

The figure didn’t move.

“Got one in the living room,” Hammond called, “Put your hands up, do it now,”

The figure didn’t move, it was dark in the living room, he could only make out the silhouette of a man, something was in his hand,

“I said put your God damned hands up!” he shouted. Then he clicked on his flashlight.

The bright light revealed a mannequin, faceless, dressed in a weird, grey/brown Brooklyn Heights Police uniform. Hammond pulled a rolled-up note from the plastic left hand. It was for Mayor Mike,

“Mike,

I was so excited about the new direction for the PD that I ran over to the uniform outlets and pulled this together as an idea, isn’t it great!”

signed Monty.”

When Hammond turned with a quizzical look on his face Burnam was there to snap a photo with his phone.

“What the fuck?” griped Hammond,

“At least you didn’t shoot him,” said Burnam.

“Control be advised, Mayor residence clear,”

After a pause Trisha came over the radio, “Copy, residence clear,” the laughter in the dispatch center was louder now.

Hammond and Burnam were studying the new Brooklyn Heights Police uniform while they waited for Mayor Mike, there was violet striping down the leg,

“There is no way I’m wearing this,” Burnam declared.

“You smell piss?”

They turned around to see Mayor Mike descend slowly down the stairs. His face was streaked in tears, eyes puffy and red. He walked in between them to look at the ‘intruder.’ Burnam and Hammond shared a look behind his back. Hammond nodded in gesture toward the seat of the mayor’s pants. They were soaked.

“Nothing to worry about Mr. Mayor,” said Hammond quenching a grin.

“Just glad your alright Sir,” added Burnam, stone faced.

Mayor Mike looked too exhausted to speak.

Hammond watched him, “You know Sir, I see you don’t have an alarm, that kind of thing really helps put people at ease,”

“Having a gun in the house helps too,” added Burnam.

Hammond’s head snapped in Burnam’s direction; eyes wide. He was biting his upper lip so hard he might draw blood.

The mayors head perked up.

Hammond keyed his mic and started for the door, “Control, Mayor secure, show us 0-8 (available for call),” as the two cops fled the scene.

The following day both men were detailed to the newly created Mayor’s (Armed) Protection Detail. Neither asked how often or when the mayor thought they should carry their weapons.

They were also plainclothes so Burnam never had to wear the new uniform.

Reference:

https://www.bizpacreview.com/2021/04/14/brooklyn-center-mayor-police-dont-necessarily-need-guns-for-making-traffic-stops-1059671/

How high do you have to be to steal an ambulance?

There is a guy in Houston, Texas who needed a taco- a Jack in The Box taco no less- so bad he was willing to steal an ambulance to get it.

I ask, how high do you have to be to steal an ambulance because: A-Jack In The Box tacos aren’t that great, B-there’s no upside to stealing an ambulance. They’re not fast, or fun to drive, they’re not fun to hang out in, and they’re really easy to spot when the police come looking. I don’t know if this dude was high or not, I’m making all this up, but an exciting end to a monumental bender seems like a possibility.

So here we are, the ambulance arrives on scene. The report didn’t say what the call was for but I’m going to say it was a life alert call because the ‘I’ve fallen and I can’t get up,’ commercials are hilarious to me.  The ambulance pulls to the the curb and Renaldo Leonard, that’s him, age 36, is sitting on the porch across the street. Renaldo and two of his friends, Maxie, and Ray have been rotating between playing Xbox and smoking weed since around two o’clock in the afternoon. It’s now almost eleven at night. The guys ran out of weed around nine. They tried to call their boy Brad for a re-up but Brad was out because he’s a junior in high school and tonight was prom. Maxie’s cousin Tieg had an ounce he would sell him but he was on lockdown. Tieg sold to an undercover cop and was under house arrest after pleading to Possession with Intent to Distribute and his mom wouldn’t let him leave the house with the tracker on his ankle. She thought if he went outside they’d come and lock him up for real.

Renaldo was zoning out watching the red, spinning lights on the roof of the ambulance when Maxie slammed his phone down,

“Fuck!” he yelled.

                The expletive shook Renaldo out of his fugue, “What?” he slurred.

                “Fuckin Tieg got some but he won’t leave the house. He’s under house arrest,”

                “Don’t look at me,” Ray said, “My ride got repo’d last week,”

                “I got no ride, and I ain’t ridin a bike all the way to Whitmer,” Whitmer was the street Tieg lived on ten blocks away.

                Renaldo had slipped back into a trance watching the lights on the ambulance. He heard Ray and Maxie talking about Tieg. He knew Tieg, and he wanted some more smoke. He didn’t have a car, and his mom was at work so her car was gone too.

                Renaldo stepped off the porch and had to pause for a minute to keep his legs under him. After a moment he started toward the ambulance.

                “Where you goin?” Ray called from the stoop.

                Renaldo heard him but he was too focused on the flashing red lights. A medic ran out of the house and grabbed a bag out of the back as Renaldo crossed the street. He didn’t break stride as the medic hurried back inside with whatever was in the bag. The ambulance was idling as he jumped in the driver seat. He didn’t even look at the house where the paramedics were treating someone. Nobody was looking his way. No one but Ray and Maxie that is,

                “What the fuck are you doing?” yelled  Maxie.

                Renaldo lowered the window, “I’ll be back,” he told them, he dropped the truck into gear and stood on the gas. The ambulance was a beast and it accelerated with all the verve of a sea slug. He was moving though, and he really wanted another smoke. He headed out of the neighborhood and pulled onto the main thoroughfare. He blended with traffic but everybody on the road slowed down and pulled over as he came up behind them. It was trippy but Renaldo didn’t have to wait for anybody. He was gonna be at Tieg’s and back in only a couple of minutes. Then he saw a Jack in the Box coming up on his right. Suddenly all thoughts of more weed were gone and he was rolling up to the drive thru. Renaldo pulled to a stop at the order box and when he shifted in his seat to lean toward the microphone his elbow bumped the center console and suddenly the ambulance was screaming, it’s high pitched whine filling the air.

                “Shit,” he swore as a voice called from the ordering box,

                “Welcome to Jack In the Box, how can I help you?” a woman asked.

                “Taco,” Renaldo said to himself as he tried to focus on the menu.

                “I’m sorry I didn’t catch that, is that a siren?”

                “A taco, three tacos,” said Renaldo.

                “I’m sorry you cut out,” the girl on the other side of the order box said.

                Renaldo looked for the switch for the siren but only succeeded in finding the button that  made the thing do a, WHOOP! WHOOP!

                “Shit!” Renaldo bellowed.

                The girl on the other end of the call giggled,

                “Come on!” Renaldo was exasperated.

                “He said he wanted a taco!” Renaldo’s head snapped around to find a blinding white light in his face. Beyond the light he saw a silver badge gleaming in the lights of the drive through. The officer lowered his flashlight and Renaldo recognized a wide smile on the cop’s face. Well that and the gun pointed at him. There was another cop on the passenger side of the ambulance too. The policeman held up his free hand. He put three fingers up, “that was three tacos right?” he asked.

                The drive thru girl didn’t miss a beat, “Three J-I-B tacos, anything to drink with that?”

                The responding officers let Renaldo have the tacos, and even let him eat before taking him in (that’s what I would have done anyway), but Renaldo never made it to Tieg’s place.

NOTE: I probably wouldn’t have put myself in front of a multi-ton vehicle when approaching a felony suspect in the drivers seat of a stolen ambulance, but I thought it sounded funnier if I sacrificed tactics for art.

My blog, I can do what I want.

The Great Irish Birdseed Caper

That’s right, a trio of geniuses in Limerick, Ireland knocked off an armored truck and all they had t show for it was a bag of birdseed.

This story brings to mind one immediate question: Who do you think got their ass kicked for this?

According to the article, there were a minimum of three dudes on this job. So, was it the guy who planned this shit show or the guy that mistook birdseed for a cash transport bag that got punched first?

When I walk through this one, I have to start with the stakeout. Let’s give them credit enough to stalk the armored car, learn its routes, maybe time its stops? Clearly, we can’t say that they paid a whole lot of attention to what the money bags looked like. Unless the brand of birdseed was so cool the bags resembled locking, security laden, reinforced cash transport bags (some how I doubt it though).

Anyway, lets put the three of our robbers in the car, a white Skoda sedan, since we’re in Ireland. Thad is the getaway driver, Kev is the bag man, Liam is the leader, and on overwatch. According to the article Kev used an ‘implement’ to subdue the armored car guy. What the hell do they mean by implement? Like a crowbar or something? If it was a crowbar why didn’t the journalist just say they used a crowbar to smack the security guard and make off with the loot? Another stray thought I had on this was how is it after all of Ireland’s ‘troubles’ in the seventies and eighties they don’t have more guns lying around?

Liam is driving Kev and Thad bonkers. He keeps calling out stops and times that he armored car is making along its route.

                “Nine oh five, bank on Smythe,”

                Then…

                “Nine ten, petrol station, Glenhadden,”

                And…

                “Nine fifteen, Western Union, Waller street,”

                Liam’s foot is tapping a staccato on the floorboards of the Skoda.

                Thad’s too afraid to say anything to Liam about the toe-tapping. This is his first gig with these guys, and he doesn’t want to mess up his big break. He concentrates instead on checking his mirrors for the cops. Thad jumps in his seat when Kev finally blurts out,

                “For fuck sake Liam. We know the fuckin route, the schedule, the whole things, shut it man!”

                At least Kev got the toe-tapping to stop.

                “You just watch your lip Kev,” Liam snaps back, “This is serious shit, every detail down to the hair on your arse’s gotta be perfect,”

                “Perfect this,” says Kev waving Liam the finger, “I know the job,”

                “You better,” states Liam flatly.

                “Clear off,”

                Thad straightens in his seat, “Boys, boy’s!”

                The armored truck is rounding the corner. The next stop on its route is a bank located in a strip mall. It sits between a discount store and a shoe store.

                “I told ya!” exclaims Liam, “Right on time,”

                Kev doesn’t say anything, he’s focused. He’s got plans for the money, and it’s so close now. The vision of himself rocking a new gold watch with a diamond encrusted face the size of his head. Rolling through Fitzpatrick’s Casino in Limerick like a whale.

                The armored truck rolls to a stop between the discount store and the bank. Thad, Liam, and Kev sitting thirty feet away in the front row of the parking lot.

                “Here we go,” says Liam.

                Liam and Kev exit the Skoda while one of the guards waddles his way from the passenger seat and down to the pavement. He’s older, with a brown mustache. The guard’s blue uniform is oversized, even for his pot belly. The guard straightens his uniform cap before shuffling around the back of the truck. Kev takes the rear while Liam rounds the front to keep an eye on the driver. Kev has a little further to go than Liam and when he makes his way to the rear fender the last person, he expects to find is the mustachioed guard walking right toward him, a canvas bag in his hand. The two almost run into each other.

“Ahhh!” screams Kev with the genuine inflection of a six-year-old girl.

                The excitation takes the old guard by surprise too. He screams the same way, “Ahhh!”

                Kev rips the crowbar from his jacket and bashes the wide-eyed guard over the head. As the guard stumbles back, Kev snatches the bag from his hand,

                “Let’s go!” he yells only a decibel under the scream he let fly a moment before.

                Liam follows and Thad pulls the Skoda out, its tires squealing. Thad pops the boot and Kev throws the bag in the dark compartment before jumping in the back seat.

                “Move!” Liam barks and the three thieves roar out of the parking lot.

                Twenty minutes later the Skoda pulls into a garage on the other side of Limerick.

                “Whew, that was flawless boys. I told ya! I told ya we couldn’t lose!”

                “Yeah, you said it alright,” comments Kev.

                Thad had heard them but was more interest in seeing the money. He curled around the boot and popped the latch with the key fob. His hands shaking as he lifts the lid.

                “Huh?” he utters. The boot is full of…dust? Thad had checked the whole car himself before they took off for the job. The compartment had been spotless. Thad reaches in and grabs some of the…birdseed?

                “What’s that?” Liam pushes passed him and reaches for the bag. He freezes as his hand reaches the bag. Instead of finding strapped bills filling the canvas bag he retracts his hand to reveal a fist full of birdseed.

                Thad, Liam, and Kev watch as a long sad stream of birdseed sifts from Liam’s hand like sand from an hourglass.

As I write this I kind of don’t want to say who his who first. Instead of a beat down, I like to think Kev and Liam just go at it in a rolling throwdown like when Peter fights the giant Chicken in Family Guy. When it’s all over I have to end it with the three of them standing together watching the Skoda go up in flames. These criminal masterminds have seen every episode of CSI (every flavor, even Miami) and know that they have to burn the getaway car to throw the cops off their trail. Kev has a split lip, and one of Liam’s eyes are swollen shut. Thad is holding an empty gas can wondering when he can get away from the other two without it being awkward. From the boot random bits of birdseed pop every now and then like popcorn.

The article notes that the guard had stopped at the discount store next to the bank to buy some birdseed in between stops. Kev apparently stumbled into him after the discount store but before the bank. I can’t say this enough. I love dumb criminals.

We’ll just leave it at that.

Three men arrested in probe into cash-in-transit robbery where bird seed was stolen instead of cash – Independent.ie

It’s the Little Things

 

Has anyone ever told you that it’s the little things that get you? Maybe you didn’t get in as much trouble as I did growing up but I have been told (usually by Mom) and have told (bad guys during my Cop life) that it is the little details, those fine points that even the most careful of us overlook that end up bringing all our nefarious plans crashing down on our heads. When I think of this I think of wearing gloves to hide your fingerprints. Or if you are a teenager in upstate New York in January, maybe watching out where you leave footprints in the snow when sneaking out at night. Oh I also got caught once when my folks asked me if I was power sliding my little VW down the street during an ice storm. When I denied that I would ever do something like that they gently showed me to the tire tracks that lead directly from the sideways prints on the street to my rear tires parked in the driveway: the little things.

I saw this little gem of an article and had to share. The next time you step onto a subway train, board an airplane, or take someone else’s phone to watch the newest annoyingly cute animal video think about this. “How your micro-biome can put you at the scene of the crime,” by Kai Kupferschmidt from Science Magazine.

Turns out that by the time we are 3 or 4 years we have gathered a unique set of bacteria from the environment we grow up in, and that mix remains fairly stable throughout our lives.

In 2010 a paper from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers showed that bacterial DNA recovered from computer keyboards matched the micro-biomes found on their owners’ fingertips. The authors also sampled bacteria from nine computer mice and used the results to pick the owners out of a database of 270 micro-biomes.

Did anyone else just squirm a little when they read that?

A paper from 2015 identified that individuals have a theoretically unique microbial cloud that we carry with us, and deposit wherever we happen to go. We shed bacteria constantly spitting it from our mouths, breathing them out. Bacteria are so small that our clothes have no effect at containing them. Whenever we sit down or pick something up bacteria is deposited on that surface and it persists until the next person comes along. In the paper, researchers measured the bacterial cloud surrounding volunteers by placing them in a sanitized chamber and sampling the area around them. What they found was that they were able to identify individuals by this micro-biome we carry with us.

To apply this to the criminal world researchers swabbed places suspects are believed to have touched at crime scenes then sequence captured DNA in the laboratory. Once sequenced the profiles can be compared to a database and individual strains of bacteria can be identified. The mix, or unique ecosystem of different species of bacteria that are identified in the sample from the crime scene can then be compared to a known suspect sample to see if the two micro-biomes match.

In a practical evaluation, researchers in Illinois staged a fake break in then took samples from where the “burglars” handled things in the house. When the signatures from the suspects were reviewed the scientists not only could identify individual micro-biomes, but from residues in the samples determine the amount of alcohol one of the ‘suspects’ consumed each week and that one of them was on migraine medication. Even if the bacterial cloud could not be determined to be individual enough to identify a suspect to the exclusion of all others, (to date a sample size and technique has not been complete enough to try and take an identification based on bacteria to court), how great would it be if traits such as drug use, medication, or drinking habits could be used as leads in narrowing down the suspect pool?

Recently the J. Craig Venter Institute received a $900,000 grand from the National Institute of Justice to build a micro-biome database. That is a first step in evaluating whether or not bacteria can be used to identify someone. Practical application is a long way off.

Regardless I thought it interesting that when we now warn someone that it’s the little things that get you. We really mean it is the little things that get you, like your own bacteria, little.

Reference:

http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2016/03/how-your-microbiome-can-put-you-scene-crime

Don’t forget to check out my work on Amazon or any other bookstore. My newest novel Where Angels Sing is on sale now.

Where Angels Sing Cover