Monday, July 11, 2011

Mocking Criminals With Jay Leno

I watched a couple of Tonight Shows last night. Sometimes there’s not a single laugh in it, but for me it is a connection with American culture. One show had a feature called “Police Blotter,” in which Jay reads out newspaper reports of stupid criminals from local police blotters.

Only one was moderately funny. Police were called to a convenience store after the theft of four cases of beer by a group of people who had used a great ruse. One of them, a nice looking woman, walked slowly around the store with almost nothing on to draw the attention of the clerk while her friends stole the beer. For the police report, the clerk remembered the girl very well, providing ethnic information, physical description, and lots of detail about her panties. About the other guys, really he couldn’t tell the cops anything. Black, White, Puerto Rican? Who knows. That’s kind of funny.

Criminals often tickle our funny bones with their foolish antics. Sometimes hilarious, sometimes poignant, sometimes slapstick, and sometimes all three, like this true tale from Huntington Park in the 1990’s. HP is a small city completely surrounded by the City of Los Angeles, one of those geographical accidents that somehow resisted incorporation.

One day, a local woman visited the HP police headquarters on some unknown mission. It would be a quick visit, so she left her Cadillac in the twenty-minute zone right outside. When she returned to her car, she discovered that the window had been opened and the car’s radio had been stolen. She went back into the station and reported the crime.

The police in HP are not so busy, so a detective immediately went outside to see what was up. The thief had opened the window by placing the palms of his hands firmly on the glass and pushing downwards, so the cop got a fingerprint team to dust the glass. This was done quickly, and when the cop ran the prints he got a hit with full personal information, a local gang-affiliated youth with some record of contact with the HP police.

Without delay, a couple of policemen went to the address listed for the youth, and sure enough he was at the apartment with some of his friends, eating tacos from a take-out joint. Under questioning, the youth was bizarrely forthcoming. With a “yeah, you got me” insouciance, he admitted that he had stolen the radio. He and his friends needed money for lunch, you see. They had immediately fenced the radio, bought lunch, and gone to his house to eat. All of this happened in the space of about ninety minutes.

He was arrested, but he seemed surprised and somewhat chagrined at this decision by the cops. “Could you give me a break?” he asked. “My girlfriend’s pregnant, and I’m trying to get a job.”

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