Thursday, 30 October 2008

Burglars are a load of rubbish

We all know how creative burglars get in the land of urban legends. But when they begin masquerading as bags of rubbish, isn't it time they hired new strategy consultants?

An e-mail doing the rounds, starting with the time-honoured disclaimer of people who suspect they may be making idiots of themselves ("Don't know if this is true or not, but I received it from a good friend, so... you never know."), tells this (verbatim) tale of trash terror:

Just a small warning of the latest way criminals operate - very inventive!!
They dress in black & cover themselves in black refuse bags and wait on the pavement. When SAPS or the neighbourhood watch drive pass they crouch down on the ground to make it look like a full black rubbish bag. SAPS etc ignore the "black bags" & drive past. The criminals then either wait for the home owner to come home ---to hijack them or proceed to break into the house.
Please be aware & beware of "moving" black bags!!! --particularly on rubbish removal days.
PS: The neighbourhood watch member who noticed this wouldn't have known any different if one of the bags hadn't moved & if he wasn't vigilant .

If criminals applied half as much innovation to bank robberies as they apparently did to house robberies, they could quickly enhance their self-images to levels where they no longer regard themselves as trash. The truth is, the credit we give criminals for their genius goes way beyond the brute force methods and opportunistic approaches used in most suburban crime.

For one thing, on a practical level, hiding in a black bag without moving must be one of the poorest surveillance and ambush methodologies yet dreamed up for burglars

Secondly, from a crime wave perspective, if this were really happening, the police services would be formally warning the public. Claims of a police cover-up, which are often made to dismiss this argument, are weak and disingenuous, aside from making no sense and not being backed up by any facts.

In this case, in fact, the story was dismissed by one of the SA Police Services' most senior spokesmen, Superintendent Eugene Opperman. He told reporter Francois Oosthuizen of Beeld newspaper (E-pos oor boewe in swartsakke 'gemors') that "This e-mail has been doing the rounds for a while already, but no one has yet reported an incident of this kind".

He added that, whenever such e-mails did not include names or contact details at the end, people should suspect something was wrong.

Even if names or contact details are included, however, this in itself should not be taken as proof of validity. In most cases, names given in crime warnings are either false, or represent individuals who are not in an appropriate position to issue such warnings.

In this case, the disclaimer that introduces the letter is the first and obvious clue that it is an urban legend: a warning received from a random friend is about as reliable as gossip vaguely overheard on a bus. Secondly, any warnings that talk of "the latest way criminals operate" probably do not reflect the way criminals operate, but rather the way urban legends spread.

Add to Technorati Favorites