Thursday, November 17, 2005

From the “Knucklehead in the News” files, did you hear the one this week about the Midwestern man who had to go to a police precinct to get a photograph of a desk sergeant eating a doughnut as part of a scavenger hunt?

Turns out, the guy was so gung-ho about getting the picture that he, uh, forgot that he was being sought himself. His mug shot was right up there on the wall among the “Wanted” posters for failure to pay child support. Smile, you’re on “America’s Funniest Bloopers.” Guess this deadbeat dad is rethinking his brainless blunder from a jail cell.

Speaking of cells, we can top that knucklehead right here in Potomac View. How long does it take how many people to keep robbing banks in full range of the security camera while chitchatting on a cell phone before getting caught? Two teenagers auditioning for the remake of “Bonnie and Clyde”? Remember, it was a self-made photograph that was the key to the capture of those romantic robbers, too.

Candice Rose Martinez and David Chatram Williams, 19-year-old Fairfax residents, were arrested this week and charged with robbing four Wachovia Bank branches in Northern Virginia.

Get this: Mr. Williams worked as a teller at one of the branches. You’ve got to wonder what part of the training class he missed. The first thing they teach is what to do in the case of robbery.

Isn’t it common knowledge by now that Big Brother is watching you from hidden cameras placed in every nook and cranny of commerce? How many times do would-be bandits have to get caught on tape to deter others?

Sure enough, the capture of the so-called “cell phone bandit” came about only after the security camera picture was plastered all over the airwaves and the Internet, showing a woman nonchalantly talking on her wireless while she patiently stood in front of the counter like she was any other customer transacting business. What’s wrong with that picture? After all the hullabaloo about banning talking on the cell phones while driving, maybe some progressive and innovative public servant should propose a bill that makes it illegal to use a cell phone while committing a crime.

How else would impressionable young minds know not to talk on their wireless wizards while attempting to reprise the roles of Bonnie and Clyde? In court documents, police said Miss Martinez confessed. Then, Mr. Williams, suspected of being the getaway driver, also confessed.

Can you just imagine the suspects’ decoded dialogue? “Whazzup, Boo?” “Nada. Just chillin’, waitin’ for the chick to hand over the cake. Couple thou and it’s a party at the crib tonight. Whadda’u want?” “Flat screen for me and maybe a new photo-phone so I can see the counter clearer next time.” “So, how I look? Ain’t my curls cute? Aw, but I gotta get a nail wrap when I jet the bank ‘cause I chipped my pinkie pulling the gun outta my Prada.” “Hey, move a little more to the right so I can get a better angle. What’s taking so long anyway?” “Dunno. I told you not to write big words on the note; maybe she can’t read neither.” “Just tell her to hurry up. We gotta handle our biznezz.” “OK. Hit y’a later on the cell. Hola.”

Hola, all right. Hit you both late in the cell if you go “bye-bye” for a good long time. There ought to be an extra penalty for brainless blunders.

To steal a line from Ted Koppel, “Don’t you guys watch television?” You know, like “America’s Most Wanted.” On second thought, maybe too much of the wrong kind of television is at fault in today’s consumer-driven culture. Which is worse? Too much technology? Too much information? Or too much of Hollywood’s hoodwinks?

In the movies these days, the glamorized thieves live in the lap of luxury off their ill-gotten goodies. On reality TV, the hoodlums in the hood get away with murder. Even on “Cops,” only the cameraman can keep up with the chase.

Hence, the complacent-cop-eating-the-doughnut pursuit? Turning robberies into romance has long been a successful Hollywood staple. But the slippery stunts and chaotic capers committed by Superhero and Superheroine as equal partners in the crime-does-pay plot is a new and troubling twist. “Boy meets girl” and they “get rich quick” robbing banks by outwitting dimwitted cops and detectives, then “live happily ever after” on Wonderland Lane until they can’t pay the mortgage and have to commit “one last big job.” Slick. They can convince today’s restless and gullible teens of the plot’s possibilities.

Not only do these robbery-romance flicks desensitize today’s restless and gullible teens to mayhem and immorality, but also they portray such a false sense of reality that some teens actually think they can go out and commit identical crimes without getting caught and without facing consequences.

At the very least, they are too tantalizing. And the vacuous message being sent is that “The Heist” is worth the risk to you and the danger to anyone who stands in your way.

Hollywood will not stop making money off acculturated crime, but for society’s sake, they ought to show more unhappy endings.

Miss Martinez and Mr. Williams now have a new cell phone photo to share. Smile, but this isn’t “Candid Camera.” It’s a police mug shot that will stay with you for the rest of your lives.

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