Thursday, October 28, 2004

Why I love the New York Daily News

Sure, right now I read the NY Times for national news. But if I lived in the city, I'm pretty sure that I would be more likely to pick up the New York Daily News. Check out these three headlines (all in a row online):
Anatomy of a Fatal Attraction
Cross-Dressed to Kill
Shot Dead for a Nudge

That's journalism, people!

Stopping crime the Apartheid way

Check out this paragraph:

Judith Stockhill, a council member for the [fence]-laden Sandhurst neighborhood, says she is annoyed by the argument that fences and gates exclude blacks to make whites feel safe. Most victims in her area, she said, are black workers
commuting on foot ...

Yeah, this is set in racist ol' South Africa. But why are we casting stones all the way over there? In my own city of St. Louis (hell, in my neighborhood) wealthy white folks own private, gated streets in the middle of the freaking city. There are parts of the Central West End where you have to go several blocks out of your way to move one block east, since the roads are blocked off. And wouldn't you know, those oradblocks divide white neighborhoods from black ones. I'm sorry, I mean safe neighborhoods from crime-risk neighborhoods.

A Supreme Act of Restraint

Now, I really am crying. The new GTA is out on the streets, and I haven't picked it up yet. No, really. Why, you might ask? Because November is National Write a Novel Month. Anybody got the stones to sign up with me? I'm going to be working on my long awaited The Pickpocket. I'll be posting updates here to keep myself honest. The goal is to reach 50,000 words by the end of the month.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

No Suprises Here

The Smoking Gun has the goods on a couple of mobsters who care enough about the future of this country to, well, give money to PResident Bush.

Go figure.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

The calculus of violence

I've started reading Rising Up and Rising Down by William T. Vollmann. The link goes to the seven volume, 3,500 page version. I'm a punk, I got the one volume abridgement that just came out. It presents a history and meditation on violence, including what Vollmann describes as a "moral calculus" to determine when violence is justified. I'll let you know when I'm done.

Speaking of a moral calculus of violence, I watched Freeway last night. It's a flawed film, for certain, but it's worth seeing for the fantastic job Reese Witherspoon does of portraying someone who is filled with violent, explosive rage who still manages to be totally sympathetic. Check it out.


The crime problem in Jamaica is so bad, they're bringing in cops from other countries to help out. This editorial asks the question: "Is it that our home team is not playing their part? Or is it that Jamaicans are getting viler?"

Monday, October 25, 2004

More on the Student Mafia

If the reporter isn't writing a book on this kid, he's insane.

Friday, October 22, 2004

Co-ed Criminal

A must-read article about a dorm room crime boss from the Dallas Observer (that's right, another sister paper!)

Damn the fish smugglers!

The best part of this story about police moving in on South Africa's biggest criminal gang is the list of the crews deeds: "racketeering, drug smuggling, robbery and abalone poaching and smuggling."

Abalone smuggling? Apparently, it's a problem.

And yes, I know that abalone isn't really a fish. Leave me alone.

Charles Manson ... most likely insane.

I watched the remake of Helter Skelter last night. It's a pretty by-the-numbers retelling of the whole sorry case, and really not worth your time. I thought I was renting this, which looks a great deal more interesting. Apperently it's offensive as all get out. And that works for me. But something tells me it won't be coming to l'il old St. Louis.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

The Lizard Rat

Check out this article from the Eastbay Express (another sister paper) on the career of Lizard, a Hispanic prison gang leader turned informant. Maybe it's just because I'm re-reading Monster (I found a first edition hardcover at a used bookstore), but the way that prisons become the nerve centers of these criminal mobs suggests that just maybe, throwing all of the worst criminals in the state together might not be the best way to end crime.

It's a crime-spree, guv'nor!

The British press is all over the drastic increase in violent crime that's swept their nation. And I thought they were all so well mannered.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

More on Crime Porn

Here's another story on the police department that is going to be keeping track of the porn owned by criminals:
Information will not be suspect specific, according to Lt. Matt Bilodeau. Rather, it will show what kind of pornography was connected with specific types of crime.

So they're going to have a checklist? I will be getting my hands on that.

Least cool crime ever.

Not that I want to champion this guy, but it seems like he's already been on trial once in this case. Waiting eight years for someone to die, and then charging the guy with murder seems like double jeopardy.

Prison Slang

The other day, my sister used the word "grip" to describe a long amount of time. I'd never heard that particular usage. Turns out it's prison slang! Way to go, sis! Jim Goad, who provides the linked glossary, wrote a story on stoner gangs several years ago, which has got me digging him again. The glossary is several years old, so some of these terms have floated out into the real world. Check it out.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

More on the Indian Robin Hood

If Hollywood gave two shits about India, this guy's life would make an awesome movie. More on Veerappan's life here and here.

No, really, I'm going to cry.

More on the new Grand Theft Auto. Watch the trailer for just a hint that Rockstar has done it again. Especially the music. Oh, yes. Yes, yes, yes.

Okay, that's all I'll say until the release. Promise.

Hands off the rims, bub.

Suprise, suprise. Escalades are eight times more likely to be stolen than the average new car. Guess I'll put off buying it for another year. Although, if you live in St. Louis, they'll steal anything they can drive. Trust me on this one.

Indian Bad-Ass

The most famous criminal in India was gunned down last night. I don't know about you, but this is the kind of thing I want in my obituary:

Dreaded smuggler: Rations, arms and ammunition were no problem for the forest brigand.Ivory got after butchering over 100 elephants and smuggling over 200 tonnes of sandalwood earned him hundreds of crore rupees.

Yeah, Boyyy!

Monday, October 18, 2004

Stoner Gangs?

I'm calling bullshit on this one until someone can prove me wrong. I'm going through last week's LA Daily News series on street gangs, when I come across this sentence: "There also are 31 Asian gangs; 16 are ''stoner'' gangs that tend toward Gothic dress and rave parties; and eight are white gangs. "

And my first thought was: Stoner gangs in Gothic clothes who go to raves? Bullshit!

And after a Google search, I haven't changed my mind yet. There are some reputable, reasonable sites that mention Stoner gangs as a serious problem. But far more sites read like this. Complete bullshit.

The most reasonable thing I've read on these alleged stoner gangs is this: "In 1984, another type of Hispanic gang developed as an alternative to street gangs.  The Stoner gangs formed, and much of the membership of these gangs was Hispanic.  Based on heavy metal music and drug use, these gangs gained a quick, but not long-lasting, popularity.  Stoner gangs shared many behaviors with more traditional Hispanic street gangs.  Therefore, Stoner gangs were not immune to the violence associated with gang life.  They just directed their violent tendencies toward other Stoner gangs and among themselves."

So, we're pretty much just talking about Suicidal Tendencies fans, right? Do you think the Stoner Gangs of today really dress in Gothic Clothing and go to raves? In 2004? I CALL BULLSHIT! After I write to the authors of the piece, I'll let you know where their sources are for Hispanic gang members in black clothing and nailpolish dancing to deep house.

PS -- I found the LA Daily News story through In the Hat. I recommend the site.

Kids kill the darndest things ...

Kids grow up so fast these days. You know, they date at younger ages, act all grown up and independant, and become hitmen for drug cartels. Plus, they have funny hair and listen to garbage music.

Metaphor alert!

From the Smoking Gun via Drudge: a man robs a bank in a GW Bush mask:

Well, why not? Posted by Hello

Muggers like girl-on-girl action ...

A police department in Utah has started cataloging the porn of suspected criminals: "(Gangs) have certain clothes they wear, markings on their houses, tattoos," Bilodeau said. "Like gangs, people who use pornography have associated traits, and we'll define them so we can link them to crimes and pornography."

Huh? So is this police chief really suggesting that the type of porn you find in someone's home is linked to their criminal activity? I'll grant him one point: people who use pornography" do have a trait in common: they're guys.

I eagerly await the findings of these officers. "We found that most muggers preferred asian girl-on-girl action. But purse snatchers liked German hardcore. Con men also preferred asian girl-on-girl action, so we're looking for a link between the muggers and con men in town."

I steal for this blog ...

I snagged an aptly erie shot for my pic over there from master photographer (and good friend) Travis Hartman. If he's got a problem with it, he can come after me. This is a crime blog, after all.

More mobster graveyards

The New York Daily News has more on the mobster corpse dumps we first mentioned down below. Now, you can take a driving tour of 'em, if you're so inclined. (I know I would be).

Sunday, October 17, 2004

We aren't playing games, here.

Oh, but we will be. The release of a new Grand Theft Auto is almost upon us. Just in time to take the place of election fretting. And it looks like Rockstar Games are going to maintain their streak.

Gang rape -- not fun?

Well, it turns out that being a prison bitch isn't all it's cracked up to be. A lot of people feel like being raped in prison is just "part of the deal." Considering most people have committed a felony or two in their life, that's a pretty shitty attitude. If the Aryan Nation wanted a piece of your sweet ass, could you stop them? Naw, I thought not.

But hey, a prison term doesn't have to be that lame.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Better luck next time!

Suprise, suprise. Mark David Chapman was denied parole again. His chances of seeing the light of day ever again are right up there with Charles Manson.

Bonnie and Clyde

Here's a great photo of the infamous Bonnie and Clyde, who would make a swell Halloween costume for a couple. There's something about a woman with a shotgun ... and, she could write, too.Posted by Hello

The Cackle-Bladder

One of my favorite phrases. Do you know what it means? If not, you could check out this webpage. Although, since it looks like every single phrase that is on this site came from this book, it would have been nice to see some attribution. The Big Con is one of the building blocks of a good crime library ... buy it.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

DVD Releases We Need

I just went through an old HBO documentary that I'm not in the mood to talk about just yet. But, there are several other HBO DVDs that don't exist, but ought to.
Paradise Lost (about the West Memphis 3)
Bangin' in Little Rock ... in fact, HBO ought to just relese a flood of America Undercover DVDs.

Also, why on earth is The Thin Blue Line not available on DVD?

Cops and Crooks

Last night, between the debate, the Cards game and my current Freaks and Geeks obsession, I somehow found time to watch the aforementioned Goodfellas commentary track featuring Henry Hill and one of the FBI agents who worked with him after he flipped. If you've watched the film half as many times as I have, you'll find the commentary indispensable. It adds layers to the story that neither the film nor the book has. It also lets you hear Hill, a truly charming man who's lived a, um, full life.
One of the most interesting things about the back and forth between Hill and the agent (whose name escapes me right now) is their easy camaraderie. I know it's a cliche to observe how much cops and crooks really have in common, but the non-judgmental way in which they discuss their cat and mouse game really illustrates this truism. The agent uses the word "despicable" once to describe Hill's former existence. But for most of the film, he seems just as taken by the mob life as Hill does.
Buy the DVD. Listen to the track.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Operation Trident

About this post, in which I wondered if the London police department has a specific division for black gun violence: They do indeed.

When is a hate crime not a hate crime?

When the hate's aimed at the wrong target.

Here's a scene: At a late night diner in St. Louis, some (most likely drunk) folks get into an arguement. One of them flashes his swastikia tattoo before leaving the diner. Outside, he strikes one of the other people from behind while yelling "Jew boy!" He then stomps the person's skull in.

Sound like a hate crime? Well, it would be. Except that the victim wasn't Jewish. So Kevin A. Johnson (scroll down) wasn't charged with a hate crime. He did, however, get a whopping big sentence for a second-degree murder conviction.

I don't really want to use the word "funny" to describe this situation, but a there are a few things here that highlight how ridiculous "hate crime" legislation is. If we're going to include motive as a basis of sentencing, shouldn't this qualify? Just because Johnson was wrong when he yelled "Jew Boy" doesn't change what he though he was doing. As someone who's a little racially ambigous myself, I'd hate to think that if I got my head stomped in by a mistaken racist, the prosecutor would want to run a DNA test before giving the bastard the proper amount of jail time.

The other thing that I find odd is the phrasing that I've seen in every single article about this case that I've read: "Family members have said that Schnelle [the victim] was not Jewish." Not, "Schnelle was not Jewish," but "family members say." Are the journalists suggesting that the family shouldn't be trusted on this? Isn't this the type of thing we could verify? If some dumb redneck went and killed a guy for being French when the guy was just from Monet, MO, would the paper say "family members say he was not French." Hardly.

Say what?

Are British police forces segregated? Or is this Guardian piece oddly worded?
"Detectives from the Met's Operation Trident, which investigates gun crime in the black community, are keeping an open mind as to the motive."

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Get your shinebox

I have in my greedy little hands the new Special Edition DVD of Goodfellas. (pause to weep). With a (be still my beating heart) a commentary track with Henry Hill and a former FBI agent!
Goodfellas previous life as a DVD was pretty sad, and this movie deserves the Special Edition treatment more than just about any other. Now, we just need a new edition of LA Confedential with James Ellroy commenting.

Sex and Violence

I just finished reading X-Rated by David McCumber. It's a biography of the infamous Mitchell Brothers, the porn kings of San Francisco, who directed Behind the Green Door and ran the O'Farrell Theater in the Tenderloin. Jim and Artie Mitchell made millions in the sex biz before Artie slid down the drain into alcoholism and Jim, in what is painted as a understandable breakdown, drove to his brother's house and shot him to death.
It's a good read, as just about any book set in this milieu would be. But it has some definete flaws. The brother's rise to the top, and exactly where all their money came from (are strip clubs really so profitable that both of the brothers would be fabulously wealthy?), is glossed over in favor of page after page detailing Artie's abusive, sex-charged relationships. (Althouugh, in all fairness, the manner in which Artie was able to completely captivate these women is interesting, until you realize that most sex workers were molested, and go on to seek out abusive relationships. That's just what Artie gave them.) There's also about 100 pages of the book dedicated to Jim's trial, which seems excessive: a book ought to be a trial procedural or it ought not to be one. No waffling.
I still haven't seen the movie that was made from this book (it stars Emilio Estevez and Charlie Sheen). I'll let you know when I do.

Pickpockets and Anarchists

As some of you know, I have a certain obsession with pickpocketing (for those of you who don't, I'm struggling with a fictional story about a pickpocket). Here's a pretty cool little lift. But the site it comes from is amazing: informational freedom from "anarchists" at its best. It's going to take a lot of reading. More later.

Mobster Corpse Dump

New band name!
The FBI has begun excavating an alleged mobster graveyard in New York. They suspect they'll eventually recover 5 or more bodies from the marshy vacant lot. They've already recovered a few human bones.
This is why I find professional criminals so much more interesting than thrill killers. The Mafia is just a big club for these guys. You might belong to a club or two. But does your club have its own graveyard for its victims?
Mine, either.

The poetry of The Evening Whirl

I may work for the largest weekly newspaper in St. Louis, but I don't work for the coolest one. No, that honor goes to The Evening Whirl, "An interrupted Crime Fighting Publication Since 1938" according to the masthead.
There's no online edition, so you'll have to hunt one down for yourself. It goes for about 50 cents a pop, and you can only find it for sale in inner-city gas stations, usually in scary neighborhoods. It's got a writing style that is a modern revision of the great confidential magazines of the 50s. From time to time, I'll be sharing some of their poetry. Here are some gems from the issue I picked up today.

The lede to that story: Sometimes when your money ain't right, it's enough to make you blow up like the Godfather. Times are hard these days. You need your ends.

Another front page story refers to two prosecutors as James G. "The G" Martine and Jennifer "Buzzsaw" Joyce.

The lede of a story about a pedophile minister: God is no respecter of persons, and neither are some of the ministers who represent him.

From their Crime Ticker: Dope eaters Tommie Guy ... and Shanta Wright were caught in the 4200 block of Aldine on Thursday. Guy, who had the tools, was charges with possession of drug paraphernalia ...

This is all from one issue. Expect this to become a regular item here.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Fall Fashion Guide

I want this t-shirt, dammit. Posted by Hello

What this blog ain't

I have neither the time nor inclination to be a clearing-house blogger. Luckily, I don't have to: there already is one.

The Columbine Gap

After reading a very interesting piece on the Columbine police cover-up written by Alan Prendergast (once again, in my sister paper the Denver Westword), I wrote Alan to ask him about recommending to me the definative Columbine book.
There is no such book, according to Alan (and my own looking around). This strikes me as a huge shame. It's been five years after the massacre, and (as both Alan and Dave Cullen have pointed out) huge public misconceptions about the crime.
Let's not leave it to Michael Moore to define this event (no matter how you feel about Bowling for Columbine, it certainly can't be seen as a film about the shootings). Come on, somebody step up to the plate and write the book that needs to be written!
Related Reading: this news site.

Straw Dogs

I watched Straw Dogs this weekend: an amazing film. A brief synopsis: Dustin Hoffman plays a mathatician who moves to England with his British wife to escape the controvery of the Vietnam War. Living in a small town, the tightley controlled Hoffman finds himself slowly unraveling in the face of the macho townspeople who have no respect for a brainy wuss. Finally, they push him too far and the movie explodes as Hoffman finds the animal inside him and stands up to the brutes.
It's a vicious film. It should be, it was directed by Sam Peckinpah with that slow, 70s-era pacing that makes the end that much more intense. They don't make movies like this anymore.
Although not strictly a crime movie, what makes this movie so compelling is that, although the film is horrifying, there's no doubt that the violence serves as a macho male fantasy. It's a superior version of Deliverance (which was made one year later).
Much like Scarface, we might not like what is happening in the film, but we also wish, however secretly, that we could cast aside the rules of society and embrace our inner warrior (or criminal). And it follows through and embraces the feeling (which is exactly what Fight Club doesn't do ... But that's a whole 'nother post).

Friday, October 08, 2004

Tupac: so very, very dead.

I won't be posting this often normally, but I want to have anyone who stumbles onto this thing to have plenty to read. Gotta hook those readers, you know.

This is an article that, now that this thing is up, I'd publish here instead of my music column. Sure, it's about music, but it's much more about crime: that is, the boiling kettle of music, money, sex, drugs and murder that was the mid-90s rap scene. The killing of Tupac Shakur has spawned dozens of theories, many of which have seen at least some validation in print. Most of them fall apart pretty easily. The one that has the most cultural currency is that Suge Knight ordered the hit on Tupac, to get out of paying Tupac some royalties or because Tupac was planning on leaving Death Row Records. Here's my nut graf about that:

Knight was in the car when 2Pac was shot, catching a bullet fragment in his
head. The gunman was firing directly at both of the men in the car (although
2Pac was the obvious target, and the fact that he tried to dive into the
backseat may have been what saved Suge's life). No matter how much of a badass
you think Knight is, can you really conceive of anyone planning a murder that
puts them directly into the line of fire?

It's interesting that there really isn't that much about Biggie Smalls's death. There's a couple of reasons for that: 1). Tupac died first, so there's more of a question about motive. Whoever pulled the trigger on Biggie almost certainly did it in retaliation for Tupac's murder. 2). Tupac worked much harder in life to construct his own mythos. 3). Tupac was one sexy motherfucker.

Related reading: This book and this series of articles.

Hoo-ray for Black Tar Heroin!

Here is a pretty interesting article about the rise of black tar heroin on the streets of Denver. With the Taliban gone, heroin purity levels are back up and more people than ever are chasing the dragon (if there's a cooler phrase than "chasing the dragon," I don't know what it is. No wonder people take drugs.)

David Holthouse (who writes for a sister newspaper, the Denver Westword, and also used to be my boss) has written some great true crime before, particularly this, which needs to be read to be believed. Incredible work.

Day late, dollar short

Like I need another reason to waste time. Here's the basics: I'm a professional music writer who's, over the past six months or so, fully embraced my mania about crime, criminals and "the life."
Here's what you can expect from this blog: musings on what I'm reading, obscure methods of criminal enterprise, and (hopefully, not a lot) of soul searching about what it is about this gory, evil stuff that holds my attention.
Here's what you aren't going to be seeing: a lot of stuff about serial killers or thrill killers (why do they do it? Because they're nuts, smart guy). Reviews of the latest grocery-store level, tawdry paperback. Sex crimes and pedophiles. Correct spelling.