False Crime

Photo courtesy Emile Guillemot, unsplash.com

Before I get rolling let me say that I hope that you are all checking out Debbie Burke’s always informative and entertaining “True Crime Thursday”  feature which appears (by amazing coincidence on the last Thursday) of each month on TKZ. I am giving away the punchline here with my own “Fake Crime” post, which will not be a regular feature. I just could not pass this story up, however. It is amusing, cautionary, and interesting. I hope you find it worth your time. 

This past week police officers in my city responded to a “robbery in progress” call at a local car wash. The establishment in question is one of those semi-automated establishments usually found on the out lots of busy shopping centers. The reporting party was a distraught male who said that, while preparing to get his car washed, a pair of despicable cads had robbed him at knifepoint of his wedding ring. 

We have a wonderful police department in my city. Here is but one example: when my older son was a wee lad his bicycle was stolen. A police officer 1) came out to the house to take a report and 2) subsequently recovered (!) the bike.  They take all reports seriously, even ones that, um, might not pass the smell test. The fragrances in the case of this robbery included Eau de whystealaman’sweddingringwhentheycouldhavetakenhis wholecar perfum. However, the officers dutifully conducted a thorough investigation. This included taking a report from the complainant,  putting crime scene tape up around the carwash, and reviewing surveillance camera footage of the area during the time period when the alleged incident took place. 

The surveillance images told the tale. The complainant’s star turn showed him driving up to the car wash area, sitting in his car for several minutes, and then calling someone. The time of the phone call coincided with the time of his 911 call to the police department. The gentleman, when confronted with this evidence, ultimately admitted that he had staged the whole thing because he had lost his wedding ring and didn’t want to admit it to his wife. Wink wink. One might be forgiven for concluding that it is ordinarily difficult for someone, particularly a man, to lose a wedding ring while they are out and about if said ring remains on one’s finger. We will not presume to hazard a guess as to why he might have taken it off. He is already in enough trouble. Trouble, you say? Why, yes. I live in a city which actually prosecutes those who file false police reports. Our friend accordingly had to explain to his wife not only that he lost his ring but also that he filed a false police report to cover up that he had lost the ring. Oh, the humanity! The icing on this manure cake is that he later reported, somewhat sheepishly, that he had found the ring after all. It was not reported where he found it but my guess would be that it was discovered somewhere it should not have been. 

I found the story somewhat but not entirely amusing. It took two officers off of the grid to investigate what was an intentional goat fling. The car wash was shut down for several hours, inconveniencing potential patrons and keeping the owner from making the daily nut needed not only to meet fixed costs and but also to hopefully turn a profit for the day. It may not be a total laugh but it is a cautionary tale. Surveillance cameras are everywhere. Burp (or worse) in public and you’ve got a gaggle of ten-year-olds recording audio-visual of you from seven different points of view and then uploading it to YouTube, Facebook, and other platforms. That’s not good. “Character” used to be defined as behaving well when no one is around to see it.  We’re running out of those places. I went out to mow my lawn yesterday and didn’t mention it to anyone. When I got back in the house there was an ad on my phone asking if I was tired of mowing the lawn and suggesting I call a local lawn service. I was told that my cellphone probably heard my lawn mower going, noted my absence of cellphone/online activity, and figured out what I was doing. I wonder if it would send me an ad for scuba diving equipment if I threw it in a reservoir. In any event, be careful of what you do. Anywhere. 

Photo courtesy Siarhi Horbach, unsplash.com

To leave things on a totally unrelated “up” note…were you aware that there is something called a “motion activated bed light” being marketed. The idea is that if you are sleeping in a dark room and get out of bed a soft but very visible light appears and keeps you from stubbing your toe, stepping the residue of cat accidents, etc. You can find out more about the item here. I will confess to wondering if perhaps it might provide an unexpected light show under certain other circumstances but will leave that to the more fortunate of you out there to determine. 

Have a great weekend and Fourth of July…and thank you for yet again stopping by. 


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About Joe Hartlaub

Joe Hartlaub is an attorney, author, actor and book and music reviewer. Joe is a Fox News contributor on book publishing industry and publishing law and has participated on several panels dealing with book, film, and music business law. He lives with his family in Westerville, Ohio.

34 thoughts on “False Crime

  1. It looks like Big Brother’s got twin younger sisters in Alexa and Siri~ even the TV remote has been enlisted (which means now I REALLY have to watch what I’m muttering under my breath or saying to the dog).

    • Thanks, George. Indeed…I won’t let those towers and dots in my home. I’ve heard stories about Alexa misunderstanding a conversation in another room and sending documents to an entire email list. Yikes!

  2. It seems security camera data from public places plays a bigger role in British crime fiction (Bryant and May; Rebus) than I find, e.g., in Bosch. I assume that’s because surveillance of public places via CCTV is still more widespread there.

    1984 may be past, but 1984 is not passé.

    • Indeed~ it wasn’t s’posed to be instructions…

      Add in Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 and Star Trek’s communicators, and Dick Tracey’s wrist radios (showing my age, I’m afraid), and, well, it sure seems we’re becoming subject to our own imaginations…

      (Sorry, Joe, didn’t mean to chase down this rabbit hole… Now, if you please… Open the pod-bay door, HAL…)

      • No apologies necessary, George, we like to free-wheel on Saturdays. I remember those two-way wrist radios in the Dick Tracy comics (I learned how to read via the comic strips) and got a little misty-eyed when I saw the Apple watches. It only took ’em a few decades to catch up with Chester Gould…

    • Thank you, Eric. I believe you are correct about CCTV being more prevalent in London than here. It’s not for lack of trying, however. There has recently been a widely publicized case in a Columbus suburb involving the murder of a Columbus physician. The evidence includes video from ring cameras at the home where the death took place (and digital recordings from an Amazon Echo); ring cameras from across the street; and a Google trail cam. There are also all of those ATM cameras. Smile!

  3. As someone who makes a living from installing physical security systems (video surveillance, access control), I can tell you that the technology is getting better, but still has a ways to go before it’s even ten percent of what you see on CSI and other shows. There are real challenges to making very high resolution cameras. Much more than just lenses and pixels.

    Having said that, there are some impressive things that a surveillance system can do. Video analytics can alert operators for objects left behind, wrong-way detection, queue lines/depth, loitering, etc. Other sensors can detect vaping (high school bathrooms), aggression, gunshot, etc.

    Those pale in comparison to cell phone data mining. Sensors are everywhere, collecting as much information about you as they can. Why? Because it’s valuable, and companies sell this information to advertisers, who then bombard you with “relevant” ads.

    London has well over 20,000 cameras. They have embraced the technology longer than the US.

    • Mike, thanks for the 411 on the surveillance systems. New Orleans has applied that gunshot sensor system and used it recently to solve a crime.

      I can speak from experience that cell phone data mining is working very well. Alas.

      I’m hearing a lot about facial recognition systems. Supposedly an individual’s facial bone structure is as unique as a fingerprint. If that’s true, why am I constantly being mistaken for Keanu Reeves?…oh well, another mystery. Anyway, thanks again!

  4. Good morning, Joe.

    Your story about mowing the grass and then getting an ad for a lawn care service reminded me of a commercial on TV in the recent past, where a husband jogged a pre-planned route, then printed out the results of his GPS monitoring on his cell phone. He ended up with love notes for his wife. It was cute.

    Someone has probably created a program to recognize parallel lines going back and forth outside a house (GPS) to be lawn care in the summer and snow removal in the winter.

    Something makes me want to send a message to Big Brother (or whoever else is watching my GPS recording) by moving in a giant calligraphic note. Instead, I turn my GPS off, too tired to fight back.

    Have a good weekend!

    • Good morning, Steve. Thanks for the GPS stories. And before we go any further, let me correct an error and omission. For those who visit these pages and know the name “Steve Hooley,” our very own Steve Hooley has a new novel available entitled THE HEMLOCK APERTURE, the first in the Mad River Magic Book Series for young adults. Please. Buy. Read. Repeat! The book does not come with GPS! I hope it does well for you, Steve. Have a great weekend and holiday week. May it be colonoscopy free!

    • My husband the Gadget Hound has a sensor light in the hallway. It’s actually kind of nice. No stubbed toes.

      He also installed a lighted toilet seat (it’s on a timer). It glows blue. I call it the Haunted Toilet. I said I was glad it wasn’t red as I had no desire for the Toilet from Hell. He said they had one.

      • Cynthia, I’ve seen that blue light toilet seat for sale. Maybe a leftover from K-Mart? Re: the sensor light in the hall…the little used basement hallway in the Federal Courthouse here had its overhead lights on a motion sensor which turned off behind you and on ahead of you. I always thought that it would be cool to film a movie down there. Maybe someday. Thank you!

  5. Your posts are so entertaining and often thought-provoking, Joe. Thank you for another great Saturday read!

    As for the presumably unfaithful husband … karma, baby. Mess with her at your own peril. Hope he receives a bill from the police and car wash owner.

    Re: mowing your lawn … that stuff freaks me out. City folks may be more prone to eavesdropping than country folks due to our numerous “dead zones.” Which once were a pain, now a luxury, I suppose. It’s a strange new world.

    Wishing you and yours a safe, fun holiday.

  6. Thank you, Sue, for your high praise. I am humbled, considering the source. TKZers, Sue will be posting this Monday so please visit.

    I am a great believer in karma, Sue. Payback is hell.

    Re: getting that message after mowing my lawn…I couldn’t believe it. What is sad is that I was looking at hats online a couple of weeks ago and have been inundated with ads from hatshops but barely noticed. I just took it for granted. I might REALLY test out how much online snooping there is and to what degree and if I do I’ll give everyone my results. Or maybe I’ll just move to the country. Is anything for sale by you?

    Thanks again and have a great weekend and Fourth!

    • One of the few quotes I am able to remember, yet one more of many I wish I’d thought of:

      Karma is experiencing the result of past actions while sowing the seeds of future experience.

  7. Hi Joe, thanks for the shout-out about True Crime Thursdays!

    Data mining is utterly pervasive. My WIP is set in Tampa during Hurricane Irma and the resulting power outage, and features a former baseball coach with a gambling problem. Suddenly my smartphone starts keeping me apprised of every Tampa Bay Rays game, even though I avoid such apps like the plague. My laptop bristles with ads for online betting sites. FB bombards me with ads for generators.

    Most worrisome, my supposedly “private” phone conversations and text messages result in ads. Last January, I blogged about the most glaring invasion of privacy resulting from a text I’d sent about a small turquoise Bible. https://killzoneblog.com/2019/01/surveillance-by-keystrokes-giving-permission-to-snoop.html

    If you’re looking for dead zones, we still have a few here in Montana. Not many surveillance cams yet. But satellites still fly over.

    Excuse me, I need to go find my tin foil hat.

    • Thanks, Debbie! Re: the gambling…one state — it might have been Ohio — had put up those billboards with the message “Gambling Problem? Call 1-800-xxx-xxxx.” The number was subsequently overwhelmed with calls from folks asking for good lottery numbers, horse picks, etc.! They had a problem all right! Enjoy your weekend!

  8. Oye! That’s certainly one way to get yourself in even hotter water. Sometimes I wonder what people are thinking (or if they are thinking). 😎

    • No, BK, he wasn’t thinking. He should have saved the hot water for the deluxe rinse! Thanks!

  9. . . . if you are sleeping in a dark room and get out of bed a soft but very visible light appears . . .

    That’s sort of a spooky sentence, Joe. Does the appear out of nowhere? Does it talk to you? Do Men In Black knock on your door the next day? Do you hear the Twilight Zone theme and Rod Serling say, “A man in a hurry in his own home to get to the bathroom is confronted in 20th Century America by a soft, visible light that appeared . . . ?”

    Sorry, Joe. I couldn’t help it.

    • Thanks, Jim, it was all good! I’d be more worried if the light went on and a hand grabbed my ankle…of course, it might depend on who the hand belonged to…

  10. I recently changed from Google to DuckDuckGo so the d**n browser would stop tracking me.
    Given the research I do for my stories, I’m expecting ads for skip tracer services, poisons that don’t leave traces, or secure hitman companies.
    “No detective, I’m not planning on killing anyone. I’m writing a novel. Why are you putting handcuffs on me?”

  11. As Sue said, Karma, baby! What an excellent story, Joe. It’s great that your town takes the fakers to task. Shame can be a terrible thing, but a tiny bit keeps at least most of us from making complete asses of ourselves.

    I was dismayed to read about your mowing/ad incident. It happened to me Wednesday–I was at a sushi restaurant, and while I was eating, ads for sushi-making and other restaurants showed up as I perused an online newspaper. (NYPost, my favorite for non-news and celebrity/royal gossip bc a girl likes to be entertained) I have my location setting on for Safari, so I’m guessing that’s how it came to be.

    I keep the microphone on Alexa turned off, but my husband teases me that the phones are listening anyway. This distresses me greatly–but apparently not enough to get rid of both phones and Alexa. Apparently we have pretty much given up the notion of privacy as a culture, and I find that quite disturbing. It’s only a matter of time before these little snippets of conversation show up out of context when political and social purges start happening (paranoid much?).

    As to cameras–The UK is, indeed, covered in cameras, but like policing in general, they only assist after the fact. Criminals either bust them, spray paint them, or disguise themselves when committing crimes. We can’t measure, but I wonder exactly how many crimes they’ve actually prevented.

    Anyway–fun story! I love your posts even though I don’t often comment. xx

    • Laura, thank you so much. You are as always very kind (more than I deserve). I of course read you religiously on your Wednesdays as well as your occasional Facebook posts…even the ones concerning my enemies the spiders! Hint…you need some Miss Muffett’s Revenge in your life! https://www.amazon.com/Forget-803064-Muffets-Revenge-Spider/dp/B00FGIJXK4/ref=sr_1_2?keywords=miss+muffett&qid=1561841159&s=gateway&sr=8-2

      Re: the evildoers and the security cameras…several years ago a young gentleman made the front page top fold of the New Orleans Times-Picayune with a photo taken by the security camera which he was attempting to separate from the top of the telephone pole it was on. Oh, the humanity! I guess if he was a rocket scientist he’d be working at Oak Ridge! Thanks again for the kind words and the stories!

  12. Patricia, a couple of weeks ago on Animal Kingdom (the TNT series about the criminal family in San Diego) step by step instructions were given on how to build a bleach bomb! Very interesting. Good luck with your research!

  13. When I first got my Amazon Fire tablet, I charged it on my computer tower next to my TV. One night Alexa talked to me out of the blue to my surprise. I rarely use her. I realized what it was. We have a local station that explains how to get the news from Alexa. When he asked Alexa what was in the news for the day, my Fire said, “I’m sorry, I didn’t catch that.” I since have the plug which is faster and not next to the TV!

    • Rebecca, I just read a story about a Prime subscriber who while attempting to cancel their subscription had Alexa curse them! I won’t have that thing in my house. Thanks for another reminder as to why.

      • Wow! That is scary! My roommate warned me about her too. She said that Alexa doesn’t need to be alerted by her name to be activated as I assumed. It appears she is right!

        • I don’t know why this didn’t occur to me before your latest posts, Rebecca, but the cover and back (or is it a gatefold?) of the Led Zeppelin album PRESENCE — released in 1976 — features staged photos of different people going about different tasks with a mysterious object ever-present and prominent in the foreground or background. It’s like a symbol of what is to come with Siri and Alexa. Thanks for jostling the memory bank.

  14. Scary about the lawn mowing incident. My husband is not a fan of smart phones and we have only the old flip models. Since we are retired, we leave the phones behind when we are out in the yard or walking. (Even though we live out in the country, there are enough neighbors to holler for help if needed.) We don’t have Alexia either. Whew!

    However, since my husband and I share the internet, I know what sites he visits. After a few minutes, I get FB ads or other ads for whatever he’s been looking at. I think it’s funny. Him, not so much. Evidently, my searches don’t show up on his sites. I’m better at hiding my tracks. Hee hee

    As always, an interesting post with lots of info, good discussion, and a few chuckles.

    • Thank you, Cecilia. BTW, you made me choke coffee all over the keyboard when you were talking about your husband’s web searches generating ads after a few minutes. Sounds like someone needs to clear their history and install some web blockers. Don’t ask me how I know this!

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