SCMP Monday, July 16, 2001
Criminal standards in sad decline
TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES
America's educational system is failing. Our schools are producing students who are - to quote from the conclusion of a 858-page report recently issued by a distinguished blue-ribbon Presidential Task Force On Educational Quality - "stupid".
The drop in our national IQ has caused many problems, including Limp Bizkit, fung shui, the US Department of Education and the cancerous growth of "reality-based" TV shows ("Tonight on Passion Farm: nine complete strangers churn butter").
But the most serious problem is that, as our population gets dumber, it becomes harder and harder to find qualified workers. Nowhere is this disturbing trend more evident than in the field of crime. Not so long ago, American criminals ranked among the best in the world. Foreigners were terrified to come here because our criminals were so good at making our streets unsafe.
Today, however, we are producing incompetent criminals who not only have allowed the crime rate to drop alarmingly, but who also, when they DO attempt to break the law, commit crimes of a quality that is, frankly, embarrassing.
Consider a story from the March 10 issue of The (Annapolis, Maryland) Capital, written by Brian Schleter and sent in by many alert readers. According to this article, an alleged parole violator was about to be taken into custody in the county courthouse in Annapolis when he suddenly ran from the courtroom. So far, so good; criminals are supposed to flee. The suspect, pursued by sheriff's deputies, ran into the nearby Maryland Inn, where he hid in a closet. This is still acceptably competent criminal behaviour. But then, according to The Capital, the man decided to disguise himself by "putting on a bunny suit". I am not making this up. For some reason, which is not explained in The Capital article, the closet contained a full-size bunny suit and the suspect climbed into it. Maybe he thought this would fool the deputies.
FIRST DEPUTY: "He ran into that closet."
SECOND DEPUTY (opening closet door): "Nope. There's nobody in here but a giant bunny."
FIRST DEPUTY: "Darn!"
But the deputies were not deceived, and they apprehended the suspect after a struggle. The Capital quotes an inn employee as saying: "It looked like they were attacking the Easter Bunny."
As pathetic as that criminal was, he was Albert Einstein compared to our next example, whose story is told in a March 10 Albuquerque (New Mexico) Journal article written by Jeff Jones and sent in by several alert readers. This article states that a man armed with a knife held up a Taco Bell and got US$2,300 (HK$17,900). The robber wore a ski mask to disguise his identity. This plan would have worked flawlessly, except that, during the robbery, the robber made one teensy mistake - he pulled one of the Taco Bell workers aside, lifted his mask, and said, quote, "It's me, Tim".
Yes. It turns out that the robber used to work at this Taco Bell, and he chose that particular moment to say hi to a former co-worker. This meant that the police had a pretty good clue as to the identity of the robber - namely, his name - and thus were able to apprehend him, which is good, inasmuch as a person of his apparent mental calibre should not be walking around with a sharp object.
Speaking of weapons, another excellent example of the modern criminal mind is reported in a 1999 article from the Billings (Montana) Gazette sent in by alert reader John Hauxwell, MD. This article concerns a man who attempted to hold up a Billings petrol station by pointing his finger at the clerk. According to a police spokesperson, the would-be robber "took off running when the clerk said 'no'." What a moron. You'd think our educational system would at LEAST have taught this man that, if he's going to scare people with his finger, he must demonstrate its menace by pointing it at the ceiling and going, "Bang! Bang!"
I could give more examples, but you get my point: the once-proud American crime industry has become a joke. To turn the situation around, we need better-educated criminals; to produce them, we must give our schools more resources, in the form of money. That is why I want you to put cash in an envelope and mail it to me, so I can give it to the schools. I'm talking about ALL your cash. Do it RIGHT NOW. Or else. Because this finger is loaded.