The Star-News


Different times zones different crimes

Sat, Aug 03 2013 12:00 PM Posted By: Tom Basinski

(FLINT, MI) I am in Flint, Mich. soaking up the culture, attending a school reunion, and dodging bullets. (Flint had seven murders in the previous six days before I arrived.) I am also receiving ridicule from my friends  because of San Diego’s mayor. I say, “Hey, I live in Chula Vista and Mayor Cox has never patted me on the butt.”

There is a marked difference in the way thieves ply their trades in San Diego and Flint.

For example, under the cover of darkness, California crooks swipe a vehicle, hook it up to an ATM, and let ‘er rip.

Sometimes they are successful, and sometimes not. ATM attempts are rare in Flint.

Also, in California there is the scam, usually against the elderly, of a phone call from a purported grandson saying he is in a foreign entity and he injured someone in a car accident. He needs several thousand American dollars or else he faces years in a prison that more closely resembles a torture chamber.

It’s difficult to tell how many older folks refuse the call, or otherwise do research that reveals the hoax. The ones we hear about are the poor old granny who wires several thousand dollars to the foreign country only to discover that her grandson is away at school studying for finals.

Flint crooks don’t pull the “grandmother scam” of reporting someone facing prison that needs money. Not many people in Flint have enough money to pay a scammer.

In Flint, crime takes a different path. Flint criminals are lucky because there are virtually no police to respond when someone reports a crime, even in progress.

Four of the most common thefts (and I’m not kidding) are 1) manhole covers and sewer grates, and 2) commercial air conditioning units, 3) aluminum siding and 4) copper wire and pipes, the latter two from the many vacant houses.

First, the manhole covers. Entire neighborhoods stretch for several blocks where there are no sewer grates or manhole covers. These iron items go for $175 to $300 each at scrap yards. Because a load will often arrive in a trailer, the heavy covers are mingled with other metal. Payment is made on the weight of the load. But, doesn’t someone go through the pile of stuff at some point?

The other loot of choice is aluminum siding. One person wrote into the Flint Journal to say he saw strangers removing the siding of a vacant house next door. The police didn’t have anyone to send. The reporting party could have taken photos of the theft.

Taking photos would have put him in immediate jeopardy of getting shot or beaten on the spot.

If he were not shot, and turned the photos over to the police, he would have to appear in court as a witness later and risk getting shot then. The Flint residents don’t want to play, “Shoot me now, or shoot me later.”

Vacant homes are stripped of copper wire and pipes. Most of these thefts aren’t done under the cover of darkness, but in broad daylight.

Commercial air conditioners vanish in the night.

Flint and San Diego crooks both still rob stores and banks, do carjackings, and break into houses. But, the differences in thefts based on geography are interesting nonetheless. It would be really nice if some of the Flint criminals would fall down a manhole while being chased by the police—if there were any police to do the chasing.

Basinski was a Flint cop in 1969-70 before doing the same job for Chula Vista.


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