As Eric noted earlier, there's a hilarious kind of stand-off going on these days between Dallas Police Chief David Brown, who says petty theft rates in the city have fallen because of his own tough police work, and Dallas Morning News reporters Steve Thompson and Tanya Eiserer, who proved in a story on Sunday -- I say again, proved, P-R-O-V-E-D -- that the rates went down because Brown ordered his cops to stop responding to shoplifting calls of less than $50.
As of last January 5 -- the day Brown put in effect his no-big-deal policy for thefts under fifty bucks -- the rate of reported thefts under $50 in Dallas has fallen by 73 percent, Eiserer and Thompson reported. They showed in their original story that the drop in reported small thefts happened the same day -- the same day! -- that Brown put the new policy in effect.
Steal 51 bucks, the cops come. Steal 49 bucks, they don't leave the station house.
But in his original interview with them and then again yesterday, Brown insisted the new policy had nothing to do with the plunge in the petty theft rate. He said the rate fell because he had cracked down on "fences," the middlemen who buy stolen goods from thieves. He said this in spite of common street wisdom that only organized shoplifting rings use fences, while petty thieves generally steal stuff for themselves.
So, forget all that. Here's what I want to know. Under the new policy, what can I steal? And where should I steal it?
If you're kind of drawing up a shopping list in your head, here's what you need to know about stealing stuff in Dallas under the new rules. Stay away from major malls and big box stores. They tend to have their own serious private security operations, and under the new procedures the mall cops can quasi-arrest you and get your info and email it in to the department.
Now, if you do get nabbed at Best Buy or Walmart or something, here's a tip. Apparently under the chief's new rules, the police still won't accept the report if the mall cops have not obtained your proper ID from you.
Short of beating the shit out of you, mall cops can't really force you to ID yourself. So when they ask you your name, give it as, "Mickey Mouse." Tell them your address is, "Suite 52, Upyourass Towers." And stick with that. I'm telling you, Chief Brown does not want to know.
But the really sweet deal here is the small mom and pop business where you know they don't have private security. The important thing to watch is your sticker amounts. In practical terms, there really isn't shit Mom and Pop can do to you as long as you steal stuff from them that comes to a total amount of less than 50 bucks.
It's also important in the small stores not to ID yourself, and don't behave in a way that could be interpreted as physically threatening, because that will allow them to call it in as something more serious.
I would even suggest this: Have business cards printed that say on the front, "Mickey Mouse, Suite 52, Upyourass Towers," and then on the back they say "I am going to steal merchandise from your establishment today (and possibly again tomorrow) of a total value less than $50. There will be no violence or disturbance of any kind. We can get this over faster if you would take time to point out to me some of your nicer under-fifty-bucks items. Have a nice day."
One part of this worries me. Let's say it's you and me out there stealing under-50-bucks amounts. I think that's OK, because we're basically good people, and we're really playing by the rules. The chief's rules, after all.
But what if Ed Earl ("Pinhead") Schlitz walks into the super beer store on the corner near me with his girlfriend, Credenza, and his other girlfriend, Neisseria. Pinhead says, "Credz, grabba half-case o' Pabbs, carry it out to Nessy, come back in here."
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She does. Then he says, "Grabba 'nother half case of Pabbs, carry it out to Nessy." Couldn't they do this all night until they fill an 18-wheeler with Pabst? And wouldn't the cops still refuse to leave the station house because each individual Pabst theft is under 50 bucks?
See, I'm worried about bad people horning in on our good thing. You know that's just going to wreck it, because that's way too much Pabst.
That's why I wish the chief would think about modifying the new petty theft rules. It should be that the cops won't leave the station house if the theft is under fifty bucks and if you can also tell that the thief is a nice person.
By the way, I'm thinking of opening my own beer resale store. Mess with me and I'll shoot your ass.