Free jail time, this week only

Kevin Cowherd

November 27, 1991|By Kevin Cowherd

FOR YEARS I have been fascinated by the criminal mind, which is apparently made out of mattress stuffing in many cases.

What particularly intrigues me is how these stupid crooks keep falling for all the "sting" operations the cops dream up.

By now, of course, everyone in the country (except apparently the crooks) knows how these stings work.

What generally happens is, the police mail out some sort of flier to the last-known addresses of some fugitive crooks.

The flier instructs the crooks to show up at such-and-such a time at such-and-such a place to win a free cruise to the Bahamas or large-screen Sony color TV or whatever.

Now if I were a crook, my first thought upon receiving the flier would be: ARRGGGHHH!! THE COPS KNOW WHERE I LIVE!!

Then I would hurl a few things in a suitcase and be gone so quickly you'd see little wisps of smoke trailing from my feet, the way they do in the cartoons.

But a lot of these crooks apparently have different thought processes.

These stupid crooks read the flier and think: Say, this sounds neat! An all-expenses-paid vacation in Hawaii! And all I have to is show up at Room 303 of the Holiday Inn! Hey, that's right on the way to the next bank I was planning to rob!

So the crooks show up at the Holiday Inn all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and ready to claim their prize. And one by one they're slapped in handcuffs and dragged away to the slammer by the chuckling cops, who never dreamed that catching fugitives could be this easy.

As I said, everyone in the country knows how these stings work. Heck, there are 65-year-old grandmothers in Boise who could diagram an entire sting operation from start to finish.

To give you an idea of how widespread this knowledge of stings is, I watched a cop show on TV where the police attempted to lure the criminals out of hiding with offers of free trips to Disney World.

At one point in the show, my 6-year-old ( a 6-year-old!)chirped: "The bad guys aren't gonna fall for that, are they?"

Sure enough, a bunch did. You would think that a guy on the lam for writing bad checks would have something else on his mind besides a burning desire to shake hands with Mickey and Goofy in front of the Magic Kingdom. But I guess these crooks didn't get out of the house much.

Sadly, an article in the newspaper last week indicated that at least some bad guys are starting to wise up to these stings.

According to the story, cops in Baltimore County sent out some 350 letters to parents who owed heavy child support.

The letters advised these deadbeats that if they wanted free Orioles Opening Day tickets next year, they had only to pick up the tickets at an American Legion hall.

But instead of a stampede of greedy, hot-eyed deadbeats, which you would expect, given the history of these stings, only five men showed up to claim their "tickets." The five were promptly arrested, with one Fulbright scholar reportedly asking "Do I still get my tickets?" even after they had cuffed him.

To me, the incident proved three things:

1) The deadbeats who did show up might be the five dumbest individuals in the Greater Baltimore metropolitan area, and possibly the Eastern Seaboard.

2) Even deadbeats can't get excited about watching a sixth-place ballclub.

3) The word might finally be getting out that if you're a crook and a Mailgram suddenly appears at your home advising that you've won a new Cadillac Seville, you should hop the nearest freight train.

Me, I don't see how the word took this long to get around. Don't these crooks ever read the newspaper. Or watch "Cops?"

If the crooks are stupid enough to keep falling for these stings, why don't the cops just send them an engraved invitation that reads: "The police request your presence at a mass arrest to be held in Ballroom A of the Ramada Inn. Please be prompt -- we'd like everyone in handcuffs by 7:10. Check-forgers, confidence men, second-story burglars especially welcome. First 10 felons in the door win a new camcorder!"

I guess that would be too easy.

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