About once a year, I write a “dumb criminals” article, because there are a lot of criminals out there who do stupid things and get caught, probably because if you want to be a police officer, there are intelligence tests you have to take, but if you want to be a criminal, there are not. Also, many cops have been doing this for years, but for the criminals, it’s often their first foray.
But what if they evened the playing field? What if criminals came up with crimes that hadn’t been heard of before? People keep getting arrested for all the regular crimes; why not invent new ones?
So these aren’t dumb criminals; they’re innovators! Smart criminals!
Except most of them got caught.
Our first story comes from the home of Dave and Sylvia Dungan of California, who had just installed a security camera on their front porch, when, one morning in January, Sylvia decided to review the footage. What she found was a man spending about three hours in middle of the night, on and off, licking their doorbell.
See, this is why you get a security camera.
In the video, the man spends quite a few minutes licking the bell from different angles, then walks away to lurks suspiciously in the yard. Then he comes back and repeat the process again. And then again.
How did he even pick that house? Was he just watching this doorbell for a long time?
This is why I always knock. I never trust the doorbell. Half the time it doesn’t work, anyway, and I’m pushing this non-functional button and just standing there like an idiot. And the other half of the time, the people don’t actually want you to use the doorbell anyway, because someone’s sleeping. So instead I knock, usually loud enough for people to hear me at the back of the house. People do this to my house too, and I jump 10 feet in the air, because I work five feet from my door.
Anyway, in the old days, before everyone had security cameras, you could lick whoever’s doorbells you wanted and no one had any idea.
Did he know there was a security camera? Why didn’t he lick that?
It’s a good thing they had video evidence, or the police would not have believed them at all.
The couple showed their video to the police, who said that they weren’t sure who he was, but his face definitely rang a bell.
Sylvia also posted the video online as a way of warning people in the area. To wash their hands.
And speaking of people with boundary issues, in December, a 52-year-old high-school science teacher in California was arrested for cutting a student’s hair against his will while singing the national anthem at the top of her lungs.
I don’t know that we want to live in a world where things like that are illegal. I’m a high-school teacher, and every teacher I know is about one bad day away from doing something like that. Well, not exactly like that. I’ve been tempted to do a lot of things, but none involved giving out free haircuts. In our circles, teachers don’t really do this so much, unless the child is turning 3.
But I’ve definitely had some rebbeim come over to me when I was in mesivta or beis midrash and remind me to get a haircut. To which I’d think, “Maybe move the off-Shabbosim closer together.” But none of them ever took me to the side and did anything about it. That would have saved me some money.
And anyway, it wasn’t just something about that one student, because after a couple of snips, she motioned to another student and yelled, “Next!” Then all of the students bolted, and the teacher started running after them with scissors, which is exactly what teachers tell you not to do.
See, this is why parents are supposed to send safety scissors to school. Safety scissors. Stop putting weapons in our schools.
Not that people need weapons to commit crime. In August, a visitor at a zoo in Los Angeles got in trouble with the police for spanking a hippo. That’s what the AP article called it. I would just say slapping, because spanking sounds like he put the hippo over his knee and did this repeatedly. He didn’t. According to the zoo’s security camera footage, the man hopped over the fence, reached down a cliff, and slapped the hippo loudly before bolting back over the fence and celebrating.
The man also appears to be alone, so he’s either some weirdo who goes to the zoo by himself, or he went to the zoo specifically for this purpose.
This kind of crime isn’t really new, though. It reminds me of a case several years ago where a man slapped a police horse across the face. Well, not across the face. Horses have long faces. I’m not sure how that would work. (“Are you done yet?” “I’m almost there. This is not at all how I pictured this going.”) He slapped it on the face. I’m not sure what the horse said to deserve this, though; the article was very one-sided.
Anyway, the man was charged with trespassing, and the zoo put up a “No trespassing” sign on the enclosure, which they didn’t originally think they’d have to do. The zoo does offer some encounters, though, for an additional fee, where you can meet with the animals under staff supervision and slap them if you want (to be asked to leave).
And new, innovative crimes aren’t limited to the States. In November, a group of pedestrians in Vladivostok, Russian, was stopped by police while attempting to cross a vehicles-only bridge in a bus costume. Making it the world’s only bus to be powered entirely by vodka.
The bridge’s walkways have been closed since 2015, when inspectors determined that they were too narrow to meet regulations, and pedestrians had to run the entire length of the bridge as fast as they could before they met someone coming the other way.
But a group of pedestrians wanted to cross this bridge, so they made a bus costume that looked exactly like a real bus, except that it was made of cardboard and had four pairs of legs sticking out the bottom.
I don’t know how they planned on maintaining the speed they needed to keep up this ruse.
What followed was a low-speed chase until a police officer caught up to them on foot. “Floor it!” they yelled at each other. But it wasn’t easy, because they kept stepping on the back of each other’s shoes.
Though for the amount of energy and resources they put into this bus, couldn’t they have gotten on an actual bus?
And in August, a woman in Slovakia was arrested for blasting the same 4-minute opera song over and over for 16 years.
(The Jewish equivalent, if we didn’t want to play it through Sefira, would be to blast chazzanus.)
“The whole street is suffering,” one neighbor said.
Why did it take them so long to call the cops? Also, how long can you play the same song before it becomes illegal? Like if your kids keep requesting that you play Uncle Moishy’s pizza song over and over, at what point do you get arrested?
The woman said she started playing the opera 16 years ago to drown out the sound of her neighbor’s barking dog, and she never stopped. Which tells me that she was playing it loud enough to miss the fact that not only did the dog stop barking at some point, it died of old age. And was buried in the backyard, with her song overwhelming the background.
Anyway, the woman was charged with harassment and malicious persecution, and could face up to 3 years in prison, or 16 years locked in an ice cream truck.
Finally, in January, police in Australia, responding to reports of a man yelling, “Why won’t you die?” over and over again over sounds of scuffling and a child screaming, broke down the door of an apartment only to find a man trying to kill a spider. And failing.
His wife was in the shower, or she would have taken care of it.
This is not a joke. The man actually has a fear of spiders, so usually his wife kills them. But this time, he had to just woman up and do it. It was either that or wait until she got out and then tell her, “There’s a spider… Somewhere.”
So the man grabbed a diaper belonging to his toddler, and he smushed the spider with it. But as is often the case when you try to smush a spider with something that is specifically designed with layers of softness, the spider wasn’t dying. You push it down as hard as you can, you put all your weight into it, and then you pick it up, and the spider says, “Okay,” and starts running away. So he did it again. And he’s yelling, “Why won’t you die?! Why won’t you die?!” and his daughter is shrieking, and then the police burst in, and the spider’s like, “Finally!”
So in this case, it wasn’t actually killing the spider that was illegal, and the man wasn’t in any kind of trouble in the end, except that he’s going to have to pay for years of therapy bills for his daughter. He also needs a new door. There are creeps out there.