crime


Sometimes real life reinforces the lessons I’m learning in the course of my public safety education. Take this otherwise unidentifiable fellow below, who triggered the motion sensors of my front porch cam this morning, and was thus digitally captured stealing today’s newspaper (click them for the bigger pictures):

• 

Thanks to the newspaper delivery person not tossing today’s edition high enough up onto our front steps, this male in a red long-sleeved shirt and black baseball cap, happened upon its accessibility. In the image on the left, he’s paused and is looking toward the street (perhaps to make sure no one is around to witness his impending act). Then, 18 seconds later in the frame on the right, he’s facing the house, having either begun to go down to get the paper on the lower steps or standing back up after taking it.

Coincidentally the exam we had last week was on property crimes, two of which this suspect committed: trespassing and petty theft (California Penal Code sections 602 and 488):

In class I learned that the elements required for the crime of trespassing to be complete are:

  • any person who enters any land, whether unenclosed or enclosed by fence,
  • for the purpose of injuring any property or property rights or
  • interfering with, obstructing, or injuring any lawful business or occupation
  • carried on by the owner of the land, the owner’s agent, or by the person in lawful possession.

And we also learned the elements that are necessary for petty theft to be complete:

  • the taking and
  • carrying away of
  • personal property of another without consent
  • with intent to permanently deprive the owner.

For those of you thinking it might be classifiable as burglary, that could only happen if he entered the actual residence to take the newspaper. Instead, for a $1 newspaper this fellow committed two misdemeanors, each punishable with six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

But wait! There’s more: Upon discovering the paper missing shortly after 8 a.m., I saw that the twine wrapped around the paper had been removed and dropped on our bottom most step,  which means the suspect added the infraction of littering (California Penal Code Section 374.4) to such an illustrious resume.

If the overtly clinical tone of this post has left you wondering what’s been done with the Will who usually rants ballistically about such transgressions, rest assured, he’s still here — and wishing the images captured provided a clearer picture of the culprit for which to file a police report. In the meantime I’m simply deploying another crucial aspect of my training: objectivity.

And keeping an eye open wide for the next attempt.

So Susan and I were walking Ranger this morning, as we usually do. And we were at a point in the 1.3-mile route where we’re about midway up the long block of the street to the west of the one we live on. About 100 feet away we saw a black vehicle with the driver inside double-parked next to a silver SUV and a guy between the two who looked like he was transferring stuff from the latter to the former. My first impression was that he was just moving something from his car to the black one… maybe carpooling to work or something, or heading out for a July 4 trip.

Susan figured out that there was something more nefarious afoot when the guy saw us, slammed the backdoor of the black vehicle shut, dove into the passenger seat and the car sped off. I wasn’t functioning at capacity to grasp what had happened, but Susan had the presence of mind to figure it out and to get most of the license plate of the fleeing vehicle. And sure enough when we came around to the back of the silver SUV the rear window was smashed in (as badly pictured above).

Susan was also sharp enough to get a MUCH more detailed description than me of the thief and what he was wearing. I saw a bald guy. She saw a bald guy wearing a plaid button-up shirt with the sleeves missing. I relayed all this to the dispatcher after dialing 911 to report the crime.

I looked in through the hole in the glass and saw there were still a large duffel bag and backpack left inside, so if nothing else our presence prevented the scum from making off with a larger haul. But before we left I looked into the passenger compartment and was dismayed to find an iPod cable in plain site plugged into the dash and left sitting across the passenger seat. Seriously: who does that anymore? Answer: Only honey badger motorists who don’t give a shnitz. That and clueless people who leave bait exposed like that in such a predatory environment and still fully expect all their windows to be intact and it to be there in the morning.

But wait. It gets better.

(more…)

After discovering yesterday morning that our garage door was one of the many hit in the neighborhood as part of Wednesday night’s tagging attack, I was successful in removing the smaller black tag with a bottle of graffiti remover we had, but the larger and infinitely more retarded silver tag wasn’t going to surrender so easily. So I went online to the City of Los Angeles Graffiti Abatement Program webpage and put in a request to have it painted out, and I spent the day fuming and repeatedly coming down and staring at it and hating it until I couldn’t take it anymore and grabbed that previously mentioned bottle of remover and a sturdier brush and scrub attacked it into a really oblivious craptastic mess, like so:

A neighbor chanced by while I was vicariously getting my aggressions out on whatever jackasses did this and he offered up the good and practical advice of using lacquer thinner to much greater and cleaner effect. But I explained to him that my point was driven far more viscerally than practically. That my aim wasn’t to remove the offending script entirely. At least not yet.

“I would rather it be my mess for the neighborhood to see, not theirs,” I said.

The neighbor nodded, probably not getting my point, which was to symbolically rub their noses in it. Before getting it permanently erased I wanted to render the barely readable scrawl completely illegible. To deface the defacement. To vandalize the vandalism. To slag the tag so that when the night-sneaking jackweasels slink by (and you know they will) to “admire” their handiwork, they’ll find this resident refused to let it stand untouched even a day. They’ll find their filth filthed. Rendered moot. Void. They’ll find I took their garbage and made it my own.

 

 

Today marks the anniversary of the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City. The day after that horror, as the theater critic for the Pasadena Weekly I couldn’t help but draw parallels and distinctions between such a fresh hell and the subject matter of the play I covered, whose review, follows:

Taking ‘Heart’
Political drama points finger at causes of AIDS epidemic
By William Campbell

The Whitefire Theater’s production of Larry Kramer’s “The Normal Heart” opened April 20 in Sherman Oaks, one day after the tragic and horrible bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City, Okla.

“So?” you ask.

Well, directly, there’s no connection, but at the close of the show that evening, it was all too easy to draw similarities between the play’s subject matter — the first, desperate years of the AIDS crisis and this country’s slow response in dealing with it — and the terrible event that had occurred in America’s heartland.

Both have had devestating effect; destroying lives and families, causing us to question our safety and security, and dragging into the light how vulnerable and fragile we are as both a nation and as individuals.

But in watching the events of the bombing unfold, amazed at the organization and mobilization of resources, appreciative of the forces being utilized to apprehend those responsible, and proud of the countrywide — if not global — outpouring of support for the citizens of Oklahoma City, the similarities abruptly end.

Because in the opening years of the AIDS crisis, well-depicted in Kramer’s play, there was no massive mobilization of resources. The only forces marshalled were those on the grass-roots level with little or no support from the government. And as to an outpouring? “Trickle-down” took on a whole new meaning in the early-to-mid 1980s.

Just imagine it if an organized, concerted effort — comparable to that witnessed in Oklahoma — had been concentrated against this nightmare disease early-on. Dream of what such a dedication of energy might have acomplished, what advances might have been made, what pain could have been eased, and what lives might have been prolonged or even saved. Because in looking back at the AIDS epidemic, a past of might-have-beens and could-have-dones, dreaming of what never happened is all that’s left — that and a lot of pain and death.

But dreaming of the non-existent past is not what “The Normal Heart” is about at all. Instead, Kramer’s semi-autobiographical drama is about hope and acceptance, triumph over fear and death, and the search for the face of truth in a world that has turned its back.

Directed by Ekta Monica Lobo and starring an ensemble cast that features Robert Bakkemo as outspoken, opinionated, brash and head-strong Ned Weeks, “The Normal Heart” takes place in New York City between 1981 and 1984, and chronicles Weeks’ struggle to create an effective organization to lead the fight against AIDS.

The production itself has a workshop feel to it, with its bare-bones sets and close-to-interminable gaps between the numerous scene and set changes, but it is not without its passionate moments.

I have this little weekly ritual wherein on my way to work Friday morning’s, I stop at the supermarket nearest my office building, lock my bike up to the rim-wrecker bike rack by its front door, go inside, and purchase a bag of cookies that I then take with me to the office and put in the breakroom for my coworkers to enjoy.

Just something I like doing.

The transaction takes all of three/four minutes from the point of locking the bike to unlocking it and getting on my way, and in the couple months I’ve been doing this 8Ball has never been bothered, in part because most people are decent folk and also because the rack’s in a pretty quiet area of the parking lot/shopping center that doesn’t get a lot of foot traffic.

But then there’s this morning’s three- to four-minute cookie run — proof no good deeds go unpunished — because that interval was apparently plenty of time for some two-bit jerkbag to decide my bike needed fucking with physically and me mentally and did both by unclasping my two handlebar mounted headlights and repositioning them, one pointing backwards and the other at a downward angle… like so:

I noticed this immediately as I exited the store and approached my bike. Knowing that the headlights were in proper position when I left the bike (proof via the following thumbnail still from my sunglasses cam video when I happened to look downward at the properly positioned headlights not a block away from the store), and also knowing there was no way I could have inadvertently done this myself while dismounting, I looked around for any potential culprits, but of course found none because the coward had long scurried away probably to watch me from some shadow giggling like a little bitch. So I checked the rest of the bike to find nothing else amiss while eliminating the possible motives:

  1. Did some thief knock the headlights lose while trying to yank the bike out by its stem, only to split when discovering it locked? No. The clasp’s don’t easily come apart, And the position of the bike was unaltered with its rear wheel still seated in the rack. Most thwarted thieves aren’t kind enough to put back what they fail to steal.
  2. Were the objects of the thief’s affections the headlights themselves and someone/thing spooked him into aborting the crime mid-heist? Doubt it. If the pustule had managed to unclasp them both, that person certainly could have made off with them, or at least one.

Absent a good burglary scenario, I can only conclude that some phantom menace skewed the headlights intentionally just to screw with me. Whether the intent was to proactively educate me to the vulnerability of my bike’s accessories, or to just be a raging douchemaggot… I’m leaning toward the latter. And hoping — despite the slim chance of it repeating — for the opportunity to catch the perp in or near the act during my next cookie run and thus proactively educate him to the vulnerability of people who fuck with me and my bike.

Couple weeks ago I posted on LA Metblogs about the irony of that “Need Repairs?” sign pictured at right (that I saw on my way to work), screwed there by some brainiac handyman so damagingly — not to mention unlawfully — high up the trunk of a palm tree in Hancock Park. But this wasn’t just any palm tree. It was one of all of those trees on the median of Highland Avenue between Wilshire and Melrose, which collectively make up Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Landmark No. 94.

I wrote about calling the phone number on the sign, getting the person’s (his name is Jake) voicemail and leaving a message suggesting Mr. Fixit get back over from the 818 at his earliest opportunity and repair what he hath wrought.

He ignored me, as I figured he would. So at the same time I contacted him I also filed a request with the Bureau of Street Services that the sign be removed. They fulfilled my request about a week later.

Oh and I almost forgot! I also googled the gentleman’s phone number and wouldn’t ya know it matched up with a Hollywood-based construction outfit’s website, which in the wake of his noted unwillingness to rectify, made it all the easier to post up a review of his company’s negligent promotional strategy on Yelp:

The proprietor at Hopwood Construction may very well be one of the finest craftsmen around. But unfortunately all that’s known is that he saw fit to promote his business by screwing a sign advertising his services into a Hancock Park palm tree, which is not only unlawful but also damaging to public property.

In addition, he ignored a request to remove the sign, leaving it instead to our taxpayer dollars via the city’s Bureau of Street Services to do so more than a week later.

As said, the level of quality of this person’s work is not something that can be spoken of here, but this sign and his unwillingness to remove it, is something that speaks volumes and such willful negligence should be taken into account if hiring this person becomes a consideration.

Lastly while the sign was removed successfully by Bureau of Street Services personnel, they neglected to extract the seven ( seriously, seven!?) screws that held the sign to the tree, as you can see in the picture at left (click to enlargify). Though I pointed this out in the follow-up call I received advising the sign had been removed, I wasn’t given much hope that personnel would be in a rush to return any time soon and finish the job.

Nothing against the worker who got rid of the sign, but it was enough to bring to mind one of my favorite lines from  the movie Poltergeist: “You moved the cemetery, but you left the bodies, didn’t you? You son of a bitch, you left the bodies and you only moved the head stones. You only moved the head stones!”

So I expect that, while it might take a couple weeks, I’ll load my truck up with a ladder one of these Saturday or Sunday mornings and extract those bodies myself.

Unless of course, Jake beats me to it.

UPDATE (03.25): It crossed my mind that removing those and any other older screws embedded in the trunk might be detrimental to the tree’s health, leaving wounds that could potentially make it susceptible to infestation and disease. So I called the city’s Urban Forestry Division and spoke with a supervisor who advised that the only removals that could pose a threat would be those older foreign objects that the palm’s trunk has actually grown over. He said to leave those alone and just go after the screws and nails that are easily pried or screwed out without doing further damage to the trunk.

It was a little after 9 last night when I coast to a stop in the bike lane alongside a beater idling roughly at the red at National on Venice, which is pretty deserted. There’s a lot of smoke coming out of the old Chevy’s tailpipe. Rap music that’s almost all swear words along with a lot of smoke that’s not the cigarette kind comes out of the car, occupied by its driver and a passenger.

I get the immediate sense I should just just get the hell away and bail right onto National like that’s what I meant to do all along, but against my better judgment I opt to gamble that things’ll be cool, staring straight ahead for the few seconds until…

“That’s a nice bike, ” says the passenger to me over the lyrics that are mainly muthafuckin this and the muthafuckin that.

At face value that may seem a nice thing to say. But more often than not, such a statement is not a nice thing. More often than not, such a statement is not a compliment. More often than not it is not paid by a Century City lawyer or a Beverly Hills plastic surgeon, but rather by some covetous lowlife, and it translates roughly into “I want your bike.” It’s a statement in the form of a demand along the converse lines that  “Where you from?” is a demand in the form of a statement. In short, it’s mostly rhetorical and arrives carrying a lot of baggage.

I give him a glance to find him presenting a general demeanor that would qualify as a definite lowlife. The hairs on my arms rise.

“Thanks!” I say too cheerily and I watch him looking over 8Ball like it’s another guy’s girl that he wants to get to know better 10 minutes ago. Looking away and ignoring him might have been the better tactic, But I didn’t employ it.

“What’ll you give me for it?” I ask and he takes his eyes off the bike and puts them on me and sits up a bit.

“How ’bout a beating?”

I take a breath and hold it. At this point I should dismount and get my feet under me, because Rule No. 23 of My Personal Defensive Cycling Code states:

At the outset of any confrontation a cyclist should always and immediately dismount his bike because with any potential for escalation to violence it’s easier to defend against and counterattack an assault without a bicycle between your legs.

But I decide not to follow Rule No. 23 for two reasons: One, he made no move to back up his talk with any action of exiting the vehicle. Two, executing such a maneuver might have been interpreted as some form of “Bring it then, bitch!” and thus forced him to get himself all up in my stuff.

But none of that happens. I stay put and he stays put and the thug and I hold each other’s stares the way enemies might tensely hold a handshake until he finally rocks his head back and bursts into laughter that the driver joins in on until I get let in on the joke.

“Nah, man. I’m just fuckin’ witcha.”

And I look away, not just a little in relief. I remind myself to breath.

It takes another lifetime until our light turns green. When it does, the Chevy starts to pull forward, belching smoke.

“Besides,” yells the asshole, “bikes are for pussies.” The laughter recedes as the car does, getting smaller and smaller like the imploding house at the end of “Poltergeist.”

I just let it and them go, physically. Mentally I spend most of the rest of the quiet ride home dwelling on what it is that makes certain people think they’re entitled to antagonize cyclists, be it passive or aggressive.

Next Page »