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This Guy Has My MacBook (thisguyhasmymacbook.tumblr.com)
741 points by bkaid on May 31, 2011 | hide | past | web | favorite | 411 comments

There's something very very wrong with the city of Oakland. I lived there for one year, before moving to SF and while everybody told me I should constantly be watching my back, I mostly ignored it and was fine. But after I moved to SF, I found myself in Oakland for a party and sure enough, with a couple friends, I got myself mugged at gunpoint by three scary-looking local gangsters.

The scary part, though, is the cops' handling of the situation. Luckily for me, I was quick enough to react and hide away my most important item, my iPhone 4. As soon as they were gone (within 30s) I called the cops, and soon thereafter we had 5 squad cars show up. They interrogated us and made us write statements, but would not send a car after the suspects, who had fled in a direction we had indicated to them. After telling us there's no chance they'd recover our stolen stuff, they took off. We asked for a ride back to the bart station, to the police station, anywhere (it was night in a shady part of Oakland. We had nothing… no money for a cab, and we sure as hell didn't want to walk alone around Oakland.) They just refused, saying they had "other shit to do" and left.

The fact that I got mugged at gunpoint in Oakland comes as no surprise to me—I shouldn't have been there in the first place. However, the police's blatant incompetence came as a terrifying shock.

Move to New York. I was smoking on my fire escape, and saw a dude break a car window and steal a shopping bag out of the back seat. I called the police, they got the description from me over the phone, and the cops showed up in a car in around 90 seconds. They then asked me to get in the car and we drove around looking for the guy, found him, and they arrested him, and returned the car owners stuff. The whole process took less than 10 minutes.

Great job. Citizens like you will get involved when the cops pay attention.

New York used to be very, very bad. People thought that was just life in the big city. Then they decided to maintain order, even painting over graffiti as soon as they found it, and enforced even minor laws. The criminal element perceived that bad behavior would not be tolerated. Malcolm Gladwell describes it in Tipping Point.

The second most remarkable thing about New York's zero-tolerance policing is how well it worked.

The most remarkable thing about it is how few other places have tried it since.

Is it really expensive to implement?

I don't know how expensive enforcing laws is, but crime is really expensive. It destroys lives, property values, tourism and quality of life.

When people have control over whether laws are enforced where they live, they usually choose to enforce them rather than let everything go to hell.

Yes it is very expensive. There are about 40,000 policemen in NYC. Then again, there were lots of cops in old days too -- but they weren't managed very well.

Back in the 80's, it was crazy. I grew up in a good neighborhood in Queens. The NYPD hid the drunks and incompetents in precients that served safer neighborhoods in those days. One day, a car almost hit my friends playing stickball in the street, then proceeded to go down the block and empty an Uzi into a guy at a bus stop. (Life Lesson: Don't piss off Columbian drug dealers.)

So my dad calls the cops. He dials 911, and the cop asks "Are they still shooting?" and hangs up when my dad says "Uh, no". He ended up pulling the fire department call box out on the street, and the firemen called for cops over the radio.

They did it without a budget increase. The book "The Blue Ocean" describes the strategy. IIRC, they shifted resources from other kinds of crime-fighting to combat visible crime.

Sometimes expense is a matter of resource allocation (my apologies for bringing the "drug war" into this thread).

I suspect there is more crime when resources are more focused on violating rights than on protecting them.

It is also a great excuse for podunk "Great Communicator" loving sherifs to implement American Fascism.

As much as I love how safe NYC is, I don't want it to turn into Singapore.

I believe that with the increased efficiency in identifying and prosecuting small offenses, punishment should be modulated down accordingly.

Crime happens when the risk of getting caught times the cost of punishment is lower than the benefit of the crime. If you increase the risk of getting caught, you may safely (in fact, you should) decrease the cost of being punished.

How immediate and certain the response to crime appears to be affects the perception of risk.

And even when there's no cop around, other things influence this perception. If there are a lot of people around and things are orderly and many visual cues contribute to the perception of order, the perception of risk is greater.

This calculation of course needs to take into account the limited rationality of humans, and the time value of rewards and punishments.

I always say that working with Vulcans is much easier...

I'd rather take action against the people causing problems than force everyone else to the costs of the problems they cause.

For example, people throwing plastic bags everywhere. Now were trying to restrict the freedom of people who don't litter rather than holding responsible those causing the problem.

what is it with Singapore? <br> I am curious.

They still cane people there. Like smart ass American kids that steal street signs.

I actually think that's not a bad idea! I want to read this book:


You're aware that the author is trying to point out the inhumanity of the American justicial system, more than actually defending flogging? (From your link: "Certainly In Defense of Flogging is more about the horrors of our prison-industrial complex than an ode to flogging".)

It probably is interesting, though.

it's safe to the point of being sterile. (this is a personal opinion, not a fact)

Death sentence for minor infraction. Only minor exaggeration. Oh, an your vote is numbered, careful who you vote for.

You're not alone - if I had to pick one word to describe Singapore it would also be "sterile".

Gibson is a great writer, but what's "wrong" with Singapore is not what he describes. If you wonder what Singapore would be as a democracy, look at Switzerland.

And there's nothing "wrong" with law and order like in Switzerland. Chaos like in Hong Kong only seems romantic until you become a victim of violent crime. Then all of a sudden its not cute anymore.

Could not agree more. Having lived and worked in Singapore (and Zurich) I can honestly say that for the vast majority of people it is a great place to live. Singaporeans and expats all acknowledge that yes, it is more strict than the US or Australia, but unless you enjoy things like vandalizing cars, selling drugs, or stealing street signs you can live exactly how you like, with the added peace of mind of knowing that you have a near zero chance of being the victim of violent crime.

I am guessing (perhaps incorrectly) that most of the people who talk about what is "wrong" with Singapore have either only been there once for a few days or have never been and only base their opinion of the place on the story about the American kid who got caned.

Broken windows theory has its share of criticism. In Tipping Point (or maybe it was one of his others, or freakonomics), they are able to connect the drop in crime rates with both the legalization of abortion and/or the banishment of leaded gasoline. Point being, it's nearly impossible to separate causality in sociological phenomenon.


It was Freakonomics that theorized that abortion was the cause of the drop in crime (which occurred nationwide as it was happening in NYC, though not to the same degree). Gladwell has debated with the authors of Freakonomics (primarily the economist Steven Levitt) about this.

See http://gladwell.typepad.com/gladwellcom/2006/03/thoughts_on_..., http://www.freakonomics.com/2006/03/09/malcolm-gladwell-on-t..., http://gladwell.typepad.com/gladwellcom/2006/03/levitt_and_d...

The changes made in New York bore fruit within a few years.

The trends you're referring to take decades. And don't seem to have worked in Oakland.

Oakland has tried zero-tolerance policing?

He means abortion and leaded gas.

Oakland sounds like a more permissive place that attracts scum. In NYC, they kick you out of the projects when you misbehave and scumbags end up migrating to smaller cities.

I think that zero-tolerance policing does absolutely nothing to tackle crime, it only drives it deeper underground, or to other places. In order to stop a weed from growing, you do not cut it whenever it grows past an arbitrary point, you take away it's food, light and water instead. Effectively and permanently tackling crime involves a similar approach - address the root issues and you no longer have crime.

So what causes people to steal? They are poor, they want more than they currently have because what they have is not enough. If you want them to stop stealing, then society must become fairer. As it stands, resources are allocated through a sort of popularity contest. Those at the top of the social popularity ranking get the most.

Why do people kill and fight? For respect. Society looks down on the poor, it avoids them, laughs at them and criticizes them for being where they are without having walked in their shoes. Want people to stop being so violent? Show them some love and put the batons away.

Not to mention the double standard of having a bunch of hired thugs (the police) keeping us safe from a bunch of hired thugs (gangsters). I don't want any thugs in my neighborhood.

Yeah, I had a very similar experience when a friend of mine got mugged in Chicago (next to wicker park). We were able to call the police within a couple of minutes, and within the next 5 minutes a special response unit got to us, took a description, and then drove around my friend to look for the mugger.

We didn't catch him (right then at least), but I was still impressed with the quick response.

I bought a stolen laptop on ebay, and got in contact with the true owner. The Chicago police wouldn't do anything given an address, a po box, a name, paypal and ebay account details, and photos of the laptop inside their apartment. So it varies.

Second this. I lived in frisco for a year and while it's never as bad as they make it sound, it was pretty bad looking back. There were shootings at the intersection our office was located at. Car breakins were not a big deal and just accepted. I'd see fresh pieces of glass window on my walk to work each morning. And I wasn't even living in the worst part of town aka the tenderlon.

I've only moved to NYC few months ago and never felt remotely as threatened as some of my late night walks in SF. Still I keep hearing NYC has its own share of bad hoods but my guess is in proportion to its overall size, they comprise a significantly small % of area than sf.

I remember leaving it very late to book a hotel for JavaOne once and being put in a hotel in what turned out to be a rather "interesting" location. My first hint that something might be up was when the taxi driver at the airport took one look at me and asked "Do you really want to go there?".

The second hint that things were going to be interesting was when the guy on the front desk told me how to get to Union Square - the hotel was on Geary St. and I thought I knew SF reasonably well. He proceeded to tell me not to walk directly along the street, but to walk up the hill a bit then walk across in the direction of Union Square.

It turned out that during the day this advice wasn't really required but at night it definitely was! I only walked back once and took taxis back after that.

This was about 10 years ago - don't know if the area is more civilised now but it was pretty scary then.

A native pointed this out to me while I was visiting. You do not call San Francisco frisco. Apparently, the people there really, really hate that.

Sf denizens are an oh so delicate and precious bunch. Agreed.

Proper names for SF include: San Francisco, SF, the City, and occasionally San Fran. 'frisco will make you lose all credibility around here.

Two areas of SF are pretty bad: Hunter's Point / Bayview, and the Tenderloin. Personally I never really go there on foot, and I'm fine. If I must go there, I'll drive of catch a cab.

There's also a real city in CA by that name, so people may assume you mean that, not SF.

According to Google Maps: Frisco, TX, Frisco, NC, Frisco, AL but no Frisco, CA.

You have a reference for that one?

Not US but Exeter, England. Long, rambling, poorly structured story ahead. TL/DR, bike gets thieved a couple times and police were useless. Vigilantism sometimes works.

My motorbike was stolen the 12hrs before I went sitting in a hedge in a field where I found some tyre tracks in some mud (nobody sensible would have a trials tire on a chicken chaser) of my bike earlier that day ( skipped classes at my EE uni course). After ~4hrs sitting in the cold and dark I hear the bike near to the field and set after it and try to pull the thief off as he goes around a roundabout (he just wobbled into the curb and goes off and I get flung to the ground). I phone the police telling them where my bike is ( I had reported the theft hours ago). I chase after the guy and he drops it somewhere (it went quiet) so I phone for my housemates only for 1 to drive home because he "doesn't like this one bit". I spent 20minutes waiting for the police only for me and a friend to fail at tackling the guy off the bike when he comes back and rides off.

I go looking for the bike with a friend (I hear it stop a long way off somewhere in a council estate) and interrogate one of the thief's friend who tried to follow the thief. Waste of time, it turned out the friend had put fake plates on his scooter. My friend miraculously spots my bike in a dark alley and we push it home. Then 3 fucking police cars turn up almost an hour after I tell them and I convince them I phoned them but I have nothing on me (I was certain I was at least going to get beaten up that night) so I get put in the cop car and taken home to get ID. Then they are happy that I wasn't the thief.

That was the 2nd time my bike got stolen.

1st time it was in a locked garage blocked by a locked car (smashed the window of the car to release handbrake and crowbarred the garage door and cut the lock. A few years later they torched the both and my bike along with my stuff stored in it [i was at uni]). Usual stuff first, police come down, take info and tell me they wont be able to find it. I bunk off school and go riding around on my mountainbike checking out all the council estates and woods near my home (Plymouth, England). Sure enough I hear it come down a path and see 2 people on it. I throw my mountainbike in front of them and they came crashing down and I banzai charge at them screaming. One of them runs for his life and the other just hung around claiming he didn't nick it (was offered a "go") and wanted compensation for damaging his "trackies". I believe him though as I had an inkling as to who knicked it. I ride out of the woods away from home with the mangled bicycle on my lap and I get my dad to come by to pick it up(http://www.flickr.com/photos/jonnobleuk/5783020123/), clear the woods between me and home and then I ride back. Police's response when I tell them I retrieved my bike back "oh, good for you."

For some unknown reason this heap of a bike got stolen 3 times. The 3rd time I gave up only for the police find it dragged 50meters away from my home where someone tried to use bolt-cutters on it. The police then tried to charge me £250 for retrieval fees. I slipped off from work to avoid that scam.

I'm from Exeter and that sounds full on. Luckily never had my bike nicked, but I was assaulted when I was working in a supermarket there one summer and the police turned up, basically told me it was pointless going after the guy and didn't seem to give one shit about the fact I'd just been attacked (to be fair - he pushed me into a display rather than hit me, but still).

Had a couple friends get mugged, luckily not me, in neither incident were the police even involved I don't think. People just don't think to go to them for such things such is their stellar reputation.

Also had my (push)bike nicked when I was a kid growing up which means I never actually learnt to ride a bike (my family were too poor to buy a replacement), but I guess that's a bit out of date now!

I really think things are worse for this kind of crime in a smaller town because there are more idiots who think they're king of the castle, the kind of guys who would come a cropper very quickly in a bigger city like London. Let's put it this way - I've nearly been in a fight like 2-3 times + actually got assaulted once in Exeter, never had any problems in London other than once getting my phone nicked.

I lost all respect for the police after an inadvisable night when I went to a concert in Milton Keynes and ended up sleeping rough outside the train station waiting for the first train (I was 16 at the time). The police turned up with blankets, etc. and just sat there in their vans laughing at us. Not to mention the way the MET handles protests (google Ian Tomlinson).

I would like to think most coppers are ok, but I can't help but wonder whether the police is just a destination for school bullies who want a bigger scope in which to ply their trade.

Ah cool. I sat in the field next to the Pinhoe bridge station. I got invited to the Heavitree copshop after the 3rd theft to try to figure out why it was getting stolen. I've no fucking idea.

Apart from that I never really had an issue with Exeter apart from maybe the god awful traffic and a few minor cases of racism from some kids. A friend got randomly punched in the Cavern ( I love that smelly, dingy nightclub)and had a face like a bruised elephant man for about a month. I quite like the town to be honest, the chavs are a lot less chavvy than swillies.

About stolen mountainbikes, I've had 3 stolen (all in Plymouth); one from under the kitchen window whilst my mum was doing the dishes; 1 locked in the previously mentioned garage; 1 locked up next to the Plymouth Charles Cross station. I confronted the thief on Royal Parade (2 minute walk from the police station) for about 5minutes and had the police on the phone whilst talking to him. He was fucking enormous and I was a weedy 19yr old so there was little I could really do. The police couldn't see him on any cctv.

My dad had 2 stolen and we saw 1 of the bikes being ridden in the aforementioned woods. My dad went after him with a tyre iron and I followed, we got it back (only for it to go up in the fire as it was aluminium).

It's not like we were rich to buy all these bikes. I worked up ~£600 from a paper round (a lot of papers at 3p each) for the 1st bike (the best 1) that got stolen and we really had to cut corners on most things to afford bikes to go racing. Not that they were ever really any good, they were always bitsas and there was always a really crappy part on it (saddles and pedals usually).

WARNING: rant.

I really do have a deep-seated hatred for police, at least the Devon+Cornwall. My family had to put up with almost 10years of racial abuse, violence, robbery, arson, gbh, false arrests, graffiti, property damage and theft. Smashing all the windows or pouring paint or battery acid or breaking off all the wipers or slashing the tires on our rotation of crap cars seemed to be a sport to them. That stopped after 4 of the usual culprits left home.

Let me tell you, ~30 people of all ages outside your door shouting racial slurs, even if they don't match your ethnicity, is intimidating when you are 12 and equally depressing when your non-participating neighbours walk on by or go inside their homes.

The police never did a thing except for 1 time when the guy ( who I thought stole the motorbike) was letching after my sister, came to our door banging on it, and started hitting my dad (he was a pensioner by this time) on our doorstep. We went fucking mental on him. He went to prison ( he later did the arson the day after he got out and came round to check his handy work) not for attacking and trespass but for attacking the police when they turned up an hour later (I phoned 999). Police couldn't give a shit.

My brother got ripped of his clothes and caned by two 14yr olds when he was 6. Police said "it's just boys playing".

One boy 5yrs older than I grabbed my arm and shoved it into a load of grease, I broke free and climbed a tree in our garden. That boys dad came down with a claw hammer and asked my dad where I was so he could kill me. I stayed very quiet in that tree.

Unlit boxes of matches got pushed through our letterbox on several occasions.

The police have always been fucking useless to me and have proven to us on a couple of times in court that they are liars (they can't get there stories straight and are always changing their statements). I always think they might redeem themselves. Not yet.

I used to live in Exeter and thought the same about the police. Then I moved to Florida.

I miss Exeter police.

the police...turned up an hour later (I phoned 999).

I see the problem. you should have dialed 0118 999 881 999 119 7253 [1]


Ouch. Sounds like you've had a particularly bad time - was that in Plymouth specifically or Exeter? I can imagine racial issues being far more serious in the SW given the absolute lack of racial minorities. Luckily I never witnessed it/plus my friends and I were brought up to despise racism. It is more the chav families I think.

And yes, the cavern is nice :)

Anyway I fear we are digressing from the discussion rather here :) email if you fancy, address on profile.

Plus points for the Cavern love ;-)

Never really had any trouble in Exeter - couple of pushy situations, but that's about it. One of my mates at Exeter Uni (99-02) was Asian and was subjected to some dreadful abuse. It seems to have got better in the last 10 years though.

nah. its all Plymouth. the place has changed now but we were the only ethnic minority for miles and felt like a tourist attraction at times.


I'm not surprised that it mostly happened in Plymouth really, it certainly seems to have a great deal more poverty and thus criminal/anti-social issues than Exeter, largely relating I suspect to the reliance on the military docks down there at which work has very significantly reduced.

Anyway, hope all is good for you guys now!

I went to uni in Exeter; my brother in Plymouth. Never got into any trouble in Exeter apart from phoning the police on what could have been an attempted kidnap, could have been a couple having a barney. There always seemed to be some shit going down in Plymouth though.

yeah, Exeter's a great town despite focusing on the deficiencies of the police (more a comment on the police in general), and is a way nicer place to live than Plymouth.

As I say in another comment I think Plymouth has more issues because of poverty resulting from the vast reduction in docks employment. Poverty begets crime and anti-social behaviour, same old story really.

My friend had his bike stolen in Long Beach, Ca. Decided to chase after the (very young) teenagers who took it. Got shot and killed.

Just FYI that vigilantism really isn't the way to go -- you just don't know what can happen.

I knew that both times. my brothers and sisters and i have been brought up unorthodoxly and have all had our asses handed back and noses broken for standing up for each other and ourselves.

rightly or wrongly I'd do it again and both times in the past I expected to be stabbed as I know chavs have a thing for flick and butterfly knives. I had recurring dreams when growing up of being stabbed in the neck, always defending someone. I always wake up in a pile of cold sweat with my heart going a million bpm. thankfully I rarely get them now.

This is true of anything.

People die in car accidents. People die in plane crashes. People die in Space Shuttle crashes. People die from heart disease. People slip and fall in the shower and then die. People die for no reason at all.

Some day, you will die. If you try to prevent yourself from dying, you will fail.

Actually, since you can only fail once, the best way to improve your success rate is to try to keep from dying as frequently as possible.

Really, it's about risk management. Unfortunately, I don't know the probability that chasing after thieves will result in death, however, I am going to guess that the chance of harm to yourself is significantly higher than driving 100km. Just like there are some slopes a novice should not ski down, and there are some battles one should not pick, there may be some thieves one should not chase.

So, when you're standing at a cliff it doesn't matter whether you take a step forward or backward?

I had my bike stolen in Scotland, the police spent an hour in my house trying to convince me I had just done something 'stupid' and tried to blame in on a theft. It took the bike being radio'd in doing 70 in a 20 zone for them to believe me.

I had my bike stolen and nearly didn't report it because usually nothing ever comes of it but I thought what the hell, and sure enough got the usual line about how unlikely it would be that they'd ever recover it.

Two days later I got a call to say that it hadn't actually been stolen after all, but rather some officers on the night shift had picked it up themselves as felt it was "at risk of theft". It had been sitting in one of their interview rooms the whole time.

How many more miles on the clock did it have? :)

Oh, I meant bicycle. And it was still attached to the large clump of bricks I had used as a "theft deterrence" when the perplexed officer on duty took me to it. He actually had the cheek to grumble about not being able to interview criminals in the interview room while it was full of my crap.

... and you live in what neighborhood?

There have been documented cases of NYPD not wanting to take reports. Without crime being reported, they can manipulate the figures to make themselves and the city look better. [typo edits]

Edited to add:

Start here: http://www.villagevoice.com/2010-05-04/news/the-nypd-tapes-i...

Or take your pick: http://www.villagevoice.com/related/to/New+York+Crime+Statis...

This happened on the LES. Grand and Allen. It is lower manhattan, but that neighborhood is not the upper east side.

That would be why it went that well. Try the Bronx where they never came to help me after 4 hours of waiting. Oakland is more similar to the Bronx in policing than it is the rest of the bay area.

When I had stuff (including a laptop and $800 cash) stolen out of a vehicle in NYC a year and a half ago, it took two hours to even get the police to show up. They made a decent attempt at investigating once they did, but the initial response time was appalling.

When someone put a hammer through my car window in an attempt to steal it at 3am, the cops took about half an hour to respond - they know that the one place the criminal isn't is at the site of the crime. Do a drive-around first looking for suspicious activity, then move in.

If there is no 'hot pursuit' or current danger, then it doesn't matter much whether they arrive there in half an hour or in four hours. The stuff is gone/damaged/whatever and the police won't gain much by interrupting their current task.

There is hope in some cities. Or more likely there is hope with cops that actually care and believe in what they do. These cops are scattered in various cities but hard to find because they are probably helping someone else out and there are not enough of them.

I got robbed in Brooklyn the exact same way a few weeks ago, but nobody was watching over my car. :(

I received the same treatment by the NYPD when a burglar broke into my house. Literally 10 officers arrived within 90 seconds.

I was blown away watching the local news the other night. A man in Oakland was in the water drowning while the Fire Department watched because they didn't have the "resources" for proper training and certification for land-based water rescues. A random woman eventually had to go out into the water to retrieve the body. This is unbelievable. http://sfist.com/2011/05/30/man_drowns_in_bay_off_alameda_be...

There are a few weird gaps in that story, though. The guy was wading fully clad in chest-high water for nearly an hour, which (a) suggests he was probably mentally ill and didn't necessarily want to be rescued, and (b) suggests he didn't seem to be in any immediate danger. As for how he progressed from wading in chest-high water to drowning, I'm not really sure -- that part is missing too.

So I'm not sure if they behaved quite right, but the article makes it sound less bad than the summary. Rescuing someone who is not thinking clearly and doesn't want to be rescued can go bad in all sorts of ways.

Sounds like you can thank California and their affinity for lawsuits for that. No one wants to be held responsible for anything lest they get sued.

what a bunch of f*&%en pussies...

I would tend to agree. When they interviewed one of the FD guys, he said if he wasn't on duty he would have rescued the guy. However, because they aren't certified, it opens the department up to lawsuits if something goes wrong. That's great. So now we have public officials that are doing more harm than good because of the lack of resources to train them and the fear of liability if they don't successfully save someone's life. I'm not sure which is more frustrating.

It's the same reason why doctors aren't supposed to stop to help people at the side of the road - they aren't protected by good samaritan laws. If something goes wrong, they could be liable for it, even if the person would have died without intervention.

That being said, I think most doctors would do it anyway.

Alameda is the city next door to Oakland. Aside from being reported in the Oakland Tribune, what does this story have to do with Oakland?

Most civil servants and people working for utilities and transportation systems (like the airlines) are going to be rule-driven people. They aren't going to be thinking outside the box or improvising.

And that's to be expected. Those that do think outside the box left the box a long time ago.

You're never going to convince a flight attendent that you can turn off the network and keep using your smart phone until one of the people who make the rules gets an iPhone and learns about the magical "airplane mode".

And it sort of should be this way. You want these people following rules, not making them up as they go. Its really the higher ups and ultimately the citizenry that need to change the way they think.

Where did you hide your iPhone and how did you do it without them noticing? Just curious.

I have the exact same story with the cops refusing to look for the muggers who had run away a minute earlier. And I've heard plenty other outrageous stories about OPD refusing to help. They are mostly incompetent and lazy.

And underpaid, understaffed, and spread thin patrolling East Oakland.

Underpaid? Really? I don't have a reference, but I saw an article a couple of years ago that with overtime it was common for Oakland officers to make more than $100k.

Where they really cleanup is overtime. And on the last year on the job, they work ridiculous hours, perhaps sleeping at a desk a lot of the time. Pensions in California are based on the last year of pay.

Yes, they do put their lives at risk and for that I am appreciative. But I'd appreciate it a lot more if they were a lot more responsive to the citizens who pay them.

Police departments in other East Bay cities pay higher wages and are lower-risk. Police departments can be brain-drained too.

Wow. Earning $83,969 per year with just a HS Diploma (and CHP academy training) ain't bad at all.

Actually I think it sucks when you consider that you're much more likely to die on the job as a CHP officer than as a programmer.

Garbage collector death rate: 47/100,000 per year

Roofer death rate: 35/100,000 per year

Lumberjack death rate: 92/100,000 per year

Police death rate: 13/100,000 per year

None of these jobs requires a college degree. The average roofer salary is 36k/year, 42% of the salary of a job with a 63% lower death rate.




Granted, being a police officer is certainly a more risky profession than programming, but I'm not sure that the chance of getting killed on the job is higher for police officers than for truck or cab drivers.

Keep in mind they may get 100K+ in exchange of putting their lives in danger occasionally.

Not if they don't actually go after the criminals

In the US, police work doesn't even make the top 10 most dangerous professions. You wouldn't know it from listening to them whine, though.

Is it more dangerous than what you do?

Could police work be less dangerous because of adequate training, equipment and protocols? The danger is still there, mitigated.

(Puzzled shrug) Yes, and roofers wear hard hats. Am I missing your point somehow?

Out of a total of how many professions? That's a misleading statistic.

How is that relevant? If it's out of a total of 11 professions, that's even worse than if it were out of every single job out there.

Out of every profession tracked by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.


I agree, but the bigger problem with oakland is that everyone (including Oaklanders) always say "There's something very very wrong with the city of Oakland" yet no one steps up to bat. Including you and me.

Amidst hundreds of comments in this thread, few will explicitly point out that there are obvious differences between the demographics of SF vs. the demographics of Oakland, Hunter's Point, Camden, South Central LA, and Detroit. Most likely the police you encountered were also drawn from that different demographic.

Oakland cops today have the rep LA cops used to have.

I think BART cops have that rep; Oakland PD can't hold a candle to them.

The Oakland PD is corrupt and incompetent. This has been well-documented in the local media, and there has been at least one FBI investigation into the matter. This is part of the reason why the main red light district is in Oakland, not SF.

As far as I can tell, no one has the will, political or otherwise, to take steps towards a remedy.

It isn't just the police department. The state had to come in and run the schools after the school district went bankrupt.

Did I mention that Ebonics as a second language originates from Oakland? When they were rolling up the 60s, a lot of the batshit insane got swept towards Oakland, and it has been festering ever since.

Tempe, AZ has an Oakland style PD I guess. After calling them and reporting an assault they asked "what do you want us to do about it?". I want you to do ... your f*ing job!

And then you walked.

What's the case#?

#10-060348. May I ask why you want to know this?

Just checking because it sounded a little fishy to me, that's all.

As someone who's been mugged before the proliferation of firearms in the states really unnerves me. I got jumped in a shady area of Dublin one dark winters night, was punched repeatedly in the face, and had my bike stolen. The Gardai (Irish name for the police force) handled it very well and recovered the bike that very night. The individual was known to them and it went on the long list of offenses that this person was generating for one hell of a court date.

Gun crime doesn't exist in Ireland like it seems to in the US. The idea that someone out to mug me and take my wallet would have a firearm pointed at me and not just their fists is, to me, quite scary. I don't know what the statistics are like for such crimes at gunpoint and while I write this I realise that this fear might well be the result of my limited exposure to American news outlets.

I guess my question is: is it justified or is this just my lack of experience of living in the states running amok ?

> I guess my question is: is it justified or is this just my lack of experience of living in the states running amok ?

The most dangerous places are places where there's access to firearms for criminals, but they're illegal or prohibited for citizens. The most heavily armed states in the USA actually have lower gun crime and violent crime. Likewise, extremely heavily armed countries like Switzerland and Israel also have low violent crime rates.

You've got to go to one side or the other to be safe. Near complete removal and prohibition of firearms (like Japan) works. Arming all legitimate citizens who want arms works. But having firearms available easily for purchase on the black market, but restricted/prohibited legally tends to promote the worst of both worlds.

> The most heavily armed states in the USA actually have lower gun crime and violent crime.

Is that true when you compare cities of similar size / population density? Sure, Montana has a ton of guns and little crime, but it's also rural and has no people. Looking at cities >250k, the high-crime cities (let's say, those over 10 violent crimes per 1,000 inhabitants) don't seem to skip states with loose gun laws: St. Louis, MO; Memphis, TN; Indianapolis, IN; Kansas City, MO; Atlanta, GA; Houston, TX; and Tulsa, OK; are all high on the list.

(Data from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_cities_by_crime_r...)

Houston is well below a number of cities that have strict gun laws. D.C. being the most glaring example; among the strictest gun laws in the country, and the highest crime rates.

Houston also has a significant low-income population, and experienced white flight to the suburbs on a massive scale through the 70s and 80s; leaving behind a wrecked shell of a city (downtown has only recently started to come back to life; when I lived in Houston, downtown real estate was dirt cheap, but everyone was afraid to go there after dark).

In short, I don't think it's anywhere near as simple as "guns lead to more/less crime".

It's not, but pointing to DC as an example that gun laws don't work ignores a number of significant factors; specifically, the fact that guns are easily purchased just outside of the District's small expanse.

NYC's another interesting data point (but merely that) -- violent crime rate is roughly the same as Phoenix's... one city with a heavily armed citizenry and one virtually defenseless, same results. Obviously, other factors matter more.

If you go down the list of US cities with violent crime problems in order, the unmistakable trend is they're all at the bottom end of the economic spectrum. Safe bet that the local unemployment rate has a lot more to do with crime than gun laws.


I sorta wonder if the feds make DC really really picky about reporting everything. It's easy to imagine secret service peeking over regular cops shoulders.

I could see Houstion being a little more laid back about recording every little gunshot. For one, guns in texas are sorta like bread and butter. For another, it doesn't look good to have an excess number of reported gunshots in a given annual report.

I just did a quick google and I'm not finding stats, but I've seen in a couple places features on the percent of population that legally owns firearms and on violent crime - if I remember correctly, they're reverse-correlated. The last time I saw it was in a feature by Al Jeezera which was linked to from a HN comment, I think.

The population point is interesting and I'm not sure about that. Maybe something to do some looking into at some point, I'd be curious to know more.

Edit: This seems almost comically biased and appeals to emotion a lot, but does cite some stats - http://www.press.uchicago.edu/Misc/Chicago/493636.html

John Lott is kind of a flake with several credibility problems: allegations of academic fraud in his studies and of not actually conducting a survey he claimed to have done, proven allegations of sockpuppeting ("Mary Rosh"), lack of corroboration of his claims by any other academics...

More Guns Less Crime is a snappy title, but mostly seems like a work of ideological pro-firearm propaganda in light of its author's many documented ethical issues.

Lott is also the guy who predicted that Australia would become a lawless wild west with stricter gun laws in place after the Port Arthur massacre. He overlooked the point that we never really had guns anyway, and the laws were only restricting automatic rifles and requiring guns safes at home, and that after a one year slight rise in crime (crime is cyclic), crime has dropped markedly since that point (for reasons entirely unrelated to guns, because guns don't really factor into our society).

This wouldn't be so much of a big point, except that he did spend a lot of time trumpeting about this single year of slight rise in crime. If you read his studies at the time, he also grossly misrepresents things like doing that trick where you report going from 4 to 5 incidents a year as "OMG! 25% increase!" (can't remember the exact number)

Kleck is another guy with crazy stats. In one report he mentioned that concealed handguns saved 230k lives per year in the US. I crunched the numbers to see how that would translate to our 'lawless', 'gunless' country, where criminals 'have free reign', and it would mean we would have 15k deaths because we don't do concealed gun laws. Turned out that our annual murder rate from all sources combined is about 300. Part of the pro-gun propaganda is the implicit assumption that every crime involves death or rape.

I've spent a lot of time looking at gun issues over the years and started out from a total anti-gun perspective, with the exception of farmers and security. As I've examined it, the problem really seems to be handguns. Rifles don't seem to be so much of an issue - anecdotally at least, it's hard to conceal a rifle. The armed Swiss that's so often reported are armed with rifles, too (interestingly the 'armed society is a polite society' people always seem to leave out west Africa...). When you start looking at the statistics in the US, it really jumps out at you how bad handguns are there. I've also never, ever, seen any pro-gun argument make note of the role of the startling increase in US incarceration have an affect on crime rates. It's an interesting topic and blinkered passion rise on all sides, that's for sure.

OTOH rifles are the weapon of choice for spree-killers. Australia had a surprising number of these for such a small country (my father narrowly missed driving through the Hoddle St massacre). I don't think we have had a spree killing of any significant scale since the gun bans passed following the Port Arthur killings.

Spree killers were part of my original total anti-gun position, but the more I looked, the more I realised they are an outlier.

Port Arthur was a very large massacre with ~35 dead and made up about 10% of our annual murders, but usually spree killers comprise a much lower percentage. Legislation shouldn't be made based on the outlier case. It's even worse in the US - the high visibility spree killers would only total 100-200 per year, but there are about ~17k murders annually in the US (11k of those are with handguns). The spree killers that make the headlines are a drop in the bucket in the US, and in Australia they're actually pretty rare - separated by years, not to mention that we haven't had much in the way of such things this millenium.

In short, focusing on spree killers misses the bigger picture. The sheer number of spree killers is immense in the US as compared per capita to its contemporaries, but even there it's still a drop in the bucket.


six degrees of separation: one of my teachers at high school taught Julian Knight (Hoddle St bloke) how to shoot, in the school's army cadet programme...

six degrees of embarrassment: I had been seeing a lass from Tasmania for a month or two and was making a short series of dark jokes (my MO) about the Port Arthur massacre. She waited patiently to the end of it, then let me know her aunt died there. She said it was worth waiting to see my suitably embarrassed expression...

Virginia has a lot of urban areas and population and almost anyone can get a concealed carry permit in short order. Many people do concealed carry. I really don't know the stats, but I've never heard of a mugging in Virginia, whereas ten minutes away in DC (very strict gun control) crimes like that are common place.

"I've never heard of a mugging in Virginia"

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richmond,_Virginia : Richmond was ranked overall as the 5th most dangerous city and the 12th-most dangerous metropolitan area in the United States for the year of 2005.

Thread OP here. It's funny you'd bring up Switzerland as an example, because I'm actually originally from Switzerland, but have lived across the world including Switzerland, South Africa, Japan, Russia, Oakland & SF. I've had interesting experiences at some of these other places wrt. to safety etc., but that's a story for another day.

In Switzerland, though, I think it's important to keep a few things in mind when you look at the statistics, before you judge it as a heavily armed country:

- It's mandatory for every male to serve in the army, where we are all issued rifles. We get to keep the rifles at home when not on duty, and get to keep them after our duties are complete should we wish to. This makes up a huge part of the guns owned in CH. Military rifles are very hard to conceal and do not make for very good armed robbery weapons.

- While guns are common, ammunition is hard to come by. Military ammunition is only given while on-duty, and must be returned to the arsenal when not on-duty. While many people have guns, few have ammunitions.

- For almost everybody, guns remain locked in the attic / basement to be used only should the military call.

This is a really good point, and it's statements like "Switzerland is heavily armed but relatively safe so..." that destroy credibility. Mind you there are plenty of misleading stats for the counter argument as well.

Please let me know if you ever find a truly unbiased study on gun laws and their impact on crime. Seems like everyone's got an agenda, which is unfortunate because it's really a pretty interesting topic.

I don't see how you can realistically have either of these extremes. In Ireland handguns, with the exception of a particular class of law enforcement and competition .22 calibre guns, are illegal - period. You can buy firearms but it's a very drawn out process and the ultimate decision lies at the discretion of your local police Superintendent. There are still murders committed in Ireland with handguns between rival city gangs but the common mugger will not have one. Do I feel safer? Yes

It seems that Switzerland has a low gun-crime rate but I wouldn't be so quick to give credit to their gunlaws for this. Switzerland and the United States are very different places.

Again this is just my $0.02

If you live in the country, getting a rifle isn't thaaaat dificult. There are still a bunch of hoops to jump through, of course, but it doesn't take a lot either. And if the local Superintendent says no, then you're out of luck, of course. I do feel safer knowing there aren't a lot of guns around.

I lived in Ballymun for a year and witnessed all sorts of craziness - arson, vandalism, stabbings - but not once a gun crime. I've never been attacked or robbed myself either, thankfully.

Last place I lived the dude in my basement had three guns and the guys on either side of me each had shotguns and rifles. I felt very safe.

I think the difference is that due to demographics the Irish don't face the constant threat of the urban zombie hordes attacking.

"The most heavily armed states in the USA actually have lower gun crime and violent crime."

That's not true in the slightest. Prevalence of guns directly equates to a greater incidence of gun crime, on both an international (say, U.S. vs. other nations) and intranational basis.

From the HN guidelines:

"Please avoid introducing classic flamewar topics unless you have something genuinely new to say about them."

I really doubt there's anything new or interesting to be had from rehashing the gun politics argument over again.

Please, not this argument, not on HN.

Worse than that, there's two of them going on on the frontpage right now, one in here, one in the thread about glasgow carpark gangstas.

I'll just report a comment I made 5 months ago when this happened:

"THIS debate definitely does not belong here. Seriously, even if humankind ever does sort out the essentially intractable problem of governmental control over the carrying of lethal weapons by the citizenry, I am willing to bet everything I own that we won't be sorting it out here on Hacker News.

I reckon we could have a fucking boring argument about it though. I've seen it done, it looks easy."


is it justified or is this just my lack of experience of living in the states running amok ?

The latter. Most of us live in places where crime is not a problem. We're not all in mortal fear for our lives, having property stolen left and right at gun point.

And .. the modest amount of actual crime I've seen, no guns were brandished.

I'd rather be threatened with a gun than by a big palooka with his fists.

* Fists or a gun, you're going to do what he says. He's got the drop on you, we can assume he's picked a place where help is unlikely to come, you can't get away quickly.

* A guy like that is big, likes to fight. He's going to do some damage. If he gets into it, he can cripple you for life, rack up some serious hospital bills.

* Criminals with guns don't seem to have much of a chance to learn to use them well. Contrary to TV, while shooting a gun is easy, actually hitting something is difficult. It takes practice.

"Most of us" live in places where crime is not a problem. Does anyone live in a place where crime is a problem as you describe it?

It seems that the Westerner attitude is that "somewhere else" things are really bad. New Orleans has close to the highest murder rate in the world.

Does anyone live in a place where crime is a problem as you describe it?

I have.

It seems that the Westerner attitude is that "somewhere else" things are really bad.

If I lived in a place where crime was a problem, I'd say so.

New Orleans has close to the highest murder rate in the world.

Cape Town was higher, last year.

And? I don't especially care about New Orleans: don't live there, wouldn't want to live there. It's a problem, but there isn't anything I can _do_ about it, so why worry?

Thanks for the data point re: Cape Town. That's interesting. I suppose my only point was that we like to think that things are way worse somewhere else (or perhaps someone likes us thinking that?), the State Department likes to issue warnings about how dangerous Country XYZ is, but you'll never see a travel warning w.r.t. visiting New Orleans.

The New Orleans Chamber of Commerce would throw a snit fit if the government issued a travel warning for their fair city. The Chamber of Commerce in Cape Town is somewhat less influential in that regard.

About your larger point, maybe. If true I doubt it's a cultural thing but just the way people are.

Wait, so being threatened and robbed is more scary to you than being savagely beaten and robbed?

An itchy trigger finger could mean a life threatening injury. I'd rather take the hit and have a bruise that would heal and not end up with a bullet in me.

Actually, a single punch can kill you. (see http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1392113/Aspiring-rap...)

A single punch killing you is so unusual, you had to back it up with a link. Gunshots do not share this condition.

You can fight back if they punch you. If they have a gun, and you do too, then one of you will likely wind up dead.

That said, there are worse ways to be mugged. I had a friend develop a pretty bad smelling problem, and his sponsor in NA used to mug people by sticking a dirty needle into their neck and threatening to inject them with whatever was in it. Pretty savage.

This is mostly a problem of the areas in the U.S. that attempt to ban firearms. In Texas, for instance, gun crime is much less prevalent because many more people have guns. In California, you can legally carry an unloaded weapon, but you'll get harassed by police officers who like to joke about executing civilians who choose to carry guns openly. An unloaded weapon will also help you surprisingly little if the stranger who is mugging you is pointing a loaded weapon at you. You can apply for a concealed carry permit, but you will be denied, even if you live in Oakland.

A friend in LA told me that apparently tinted side car windows are illegal there, supposedly so an approaching cop isn't blindsided by a firearm. It just seems innately odd that firearms are legal, but tinted windows aren't in case you have one...

On the other hand, isn't Limerick still known as Stab City?

I wonder if the mugger's lack of a gun is WHY you got repeatedly punched in the face?

I've never mugged anyone, but I would guess that the first step is to establish control over the victim. With a gun against an unarmed victim, the mugger gets control easily. With neither armed, the mugger might need to actually attack and force submission before the victim decides if he should fight back or not.

You assume that everyone follows a sound method of thinking, but if he just wants cash for a fix and he hasn't had one in a while he won't be rational.

My experience of being mugged leads me to believe that the degree of violence meted out is not necessarily the amount strictly needed to gain control.

Is sulfuric acid illegal in Ireland? I would rather have a gun pointed at me than a large man threaten to burn my face off.

Why are guns so terrifying, but not a knife, or a hammer, or a steel bar, or a broken bottle?

It takes far less effort to kill someone with a gun than with many other weapons. They also don't need to be close to the victim: being shot from 10 feet away is just as bad as being shot from 2 feet away, while being 10 feet away makes all of the alternatives you mentioned pretty ineffective.

It's amazing how much harder it is to shoot something with a pistol from ten feet than it is from two. Unless the person practices regularly (which I suspect most street thugs do not), your chance of unharmed escape increases pretty much exponentially with distance.

That's not to say that I hope to ever have one pointed at me.

> "It's amazing how much harder it is to shoot something with a pistol from ten feet than it is from two."

Not to mention how much harder it is to shoot something moving, compared to something that isn't.

I completely forgot to consider that, so thanks for pointing it out. Personally, I would feel much less safe 10 feet away from someone with a gun than 10 feet away from someone with a knife, so I suppose that that and popular culture were biasing my view.

This seems like a good place to mention the Tueller drill. A melee attacker can cover 20 feet in 1.5 seconds


This being said, the US has a very high murder rate (triple its contemporaries) with the bulk of them done by handgun. It seems that it's not that easy after all to escape...

... and this is part of the problem with the gun debate on both sides - there's so much emotive argument on hypothetical situations, and very little examination of what actually happens in the world out there.

One example is "if mugged, would you rather knife or gun?", but that question doesn't allow for my answer "I'd rather have better social programmes so the chances of being mugged in the first place are lower".

If I saw someone walking around on the streets with a broken bottle, I'd be pretty damn concerned to. Ditto if they've got a big-ass ka-bar in their hands.

A hammer or steel bar, on the other hand, is not immediately threatening because for the most part they aren't used to harm people.

I was walking behind a guy this weekend and noticed a Glock sticking out of the back of his pants. It's a little unnerving that one would just stroll around with a weapon that can do so much damage, so easily, in such a casual way.

As a Canadian living in the US, I don't think I will ever get used to the sight of casually toting around guns on the street - particularly when it's just tucked into your waistband.

I would venture a guess that the person with the glock tucked in their waistband was either an idiot, or more likely, carrying illegally. I live in an open carry state and unless you have a concealed carry permit you can carry your gun on you at all times in most places so long as it's in plain view. Tucked into the waistband would require a permit and anyone that's been through the concealed carry classes should be smarter than to just tuck a gun in their waistband.

Especially a Glock which lacks manual safety and so you have to rely on a good holster.

To be fair though, there are holsters that go inside the pants hiding the gun and leaving only the handle sticking out.

Both are excellent points. IWB holsters are primarily used for the purpose of concealment so to see the handle sticking out of someones waistband would be somewhat unusual. I probably wouldn't use an iwb without a jacket so the jacket would have to open for it to be visible.

As an American living in the US all my life, I've never seen anyone casually toting around guns on the street anywhere, except on TV.

EDIT: I'm not denying that you saw that guy with the glock, but your last sentence makes it sound like it's a common occurrence in the States, and it really isn't.

Where do you live that you see people doing that? Serious question.

Seattle. This was the corner of Pike and 6th - so by no means a sketchy part of town.

Well this makes me feel safe while going to the UW. </sarcasm>

Is this a serious question? If someone has a gun pointed at me all they have to do is pull the trigger and I'm likely dead. If someone is going to kill me with a hammer, steel bar, knife or broken bottle, they have to overpower me and then repeatedly use them on me to have the same effect. From the perspective of someone who killed animals for food, it is SIGNIFICANTLY more difficult both physically and emotionally to kill something with a knife than it is with a gun.

Not quite true. You can - and people actually are - be shot multiple times and survive, yet one blow from a hammer can cave your skull in.

Remember that you are dealing more likely than not with a psychopath; it's as psychologically easy for them to knife you as to shoot you. The issue is that a gun is technically harder to use than a knife. Even at 10 feet, trained marksmen regularly miss moving targets.

I'd be suprised if most muggers were psychopaths. I'd guess they're more likely someone strung out looking for a fix, and that they really don't want an outcome where they end up killing someone. They just want you to fall for the threat. In that case I'd think guns would be way more unsafe than other weapons.

Obviously there's an exception to every rule, but I'm pretty sure statistics is heavily skewed to the likelihood of surviving an altercation involving a hammer over a gun. Just saying. It's pretty easy to sidestep a hammer.

Seriously? I think that one's pretty obvious. When guns are involved the likelihood of dying seems to increase somewhat - even if it's only perceived at such close range.

Could have something to do with the fact that you can be shot from quite a bit greater distance than you can be stabbed with a knife, hit with a hammer, struck with a steel bar or cut with a broken bottle.

It is more effective. The world's armies don't march into battle with swords anymore, do they?


"I slashed people, rifle-butted them. I was punching and kicking. It was either me or them. It didn't seem real. Anybody can pull a trigger from a distance, but we got up close and personal."

20 insurgents killed at knife point with zero British killed.

No, they just use knives and bayonets.

Guns are an impersonal method of killing someone. With the others you have to be up close and really want to do some damage.

Because guns fire projectiles over the speed of sound, whereas people with hammers run at about the same speed I do.

So this happened to me in Feb.

I had my MBP taken with http://preyproject.com/ installed. Now I live outside the US , (in Ireland) and while the police where helpful & curious about how the tech worked, they just did not do anything, even though I got a photo of the guy, his first name and geo location of his apartment block in the first week.

So 3 months later, and although I'm still watching the guy watching porn on my laptop, I have built up a substantial profile of him, through persistent (obsessive according to my girlfriend) tracking.

So just this week I passed on the following details to the cops - fullname - email - phone number - postal address - bank account no - online betting account no - lots of photos of him and his flatmates/friends.

They were kinda shocked I was still on the case, but said they will dispatch someone to go pick up the laptop this week.

So my advice; if you stick with it, and hand them the case on a plate it might work out.

Please post a writeup of your experience if/when this is resolved, and submit it to HN.

Why not watch the DEFCON video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PSTFP6BYXAE

This is how one hacker got his computer back from a thief after tracking him for a few years.

will do

At that point, you could of just done a bit of identity theft and bought yourself a new MBP.

Being able to control your impulses and operate with some level of civilized executive function makes your identity worth stealing, because you're likely to have good credit. Petty thieves and other criminal morons are unlikely to have an identity worth stealing.

And that doesn't mention that you'd be committing a crime.

Yeah, I decided from the start that I wanted to stay on the right side of the law on this. Plus it was stolen from my house, so the guy knows where I live.

How do you find Prey? I'm trying to decide which one to go with:

Prey, Hidden or Undercover.

I haven't tried the others but I can highly recommend prey. You only have to subscribe once your laptop goes missing. Its also open src so I believe you can setup the serverside yourself if you're worried about prey being hacked.

It does have a few small bugs, and one thing I didn't like is the 100 report limit. You see, the 100 rpt limit means that if you want to do 2min monitoring you have to really keep on top of the reports.

Overall 2 thumbs up from me for prey.

If some guy had my MacBook, and I did this, I would generally include details like, I don't know, my name and contact email or phone number. You know, so the Mayor's office or Police Department PR people could reach out to me, or others might help me ("hey - that's Joe from Flat 3") retrieve it.

Unless, this guy had my MacBook in a viral ad campaign that is.

Edit: Here's the owner of the MacBook http://twitter.com/#!/jmk He seems real, but he does work for an agency that specialises in interactive ad campaigns.

Josh is a real guy, I've been friends with him for a long, long time. He's completely legit and this situation is very real, and he did file a report first thing. I think he threw the site up without knowing how big it'd get.

I'm the owner of the tumblelog, This Guy Has My MacBook, and the one whose MacBook was stolen. All I can say is that it's not a marketing stunt, and I'm not collaborating with Hidden in any way. I'm simply mentioning Hidden because it's the only reason the tumblelog is possible.

The Snopes addict in me always goes looking for the verifiable facts, which is what led me to your (very real) Twitter account. Wish I'd dug further and found your HN id as well!

Now, this could still end up being marketing and the world may still Rapture on Oct 21. But if Hidden weren't your client before this, they should be afterwards.

I also know the owner (http://twitter.com/jmk) - it's definitely real, and not an ad campaign :), though I do appreciate the skeptic instinct.

He's been posting off/on to his personal FB/Flickr accounts about the stolen laptop saga for a few months now, and mentioned setting something like this up to try and get some attention after he pretty much exhausted all his other avenues. Looks like that part worked :)

Hope someone recognizes the scumbag (if he turns out the be the thief that is...)

Yeah, my first instinct is that it's really a pure ad campaign.

I'm also really surprised that hiddenapp.com didn't link to this blog on their splash page. Let's say you build an app and someone use it and popularize it, would you link to it on your frontpage? Of course; that'll give you even more credibility. It probably doesn't link to it mainly because they don't want to be associated with this ad campaign.


> I reported the crime to the police

It's typically frowned upon, in a manner of speaking, to file false reports. This would be a terribly stupid campaign.

edit: I suppose he could be lying about filing. Don't know if that's a thing...

It's not a crime to pretend you filed a false report on a blog site though, as long as you don't ACTUALLY speak to the police.

Lying? Oh yeah, they came out with it last year. I've been having some limited success with it.

Sure you have, Cretan.

[edit: only on hacker news would it be necessary to post a link: [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epimenides_paradox]

For a second, I thought you were just doing a really terrible, misspelled job of insulting me :P

This has been done a few times legitimately, I wouldn't be surprised at all if someone started emulating a legitimate trend for advertising purposes... In fact I'd say we're about due for it.

The 'this app is awesome' comments, and the prominent FB like / Twitter plugs kind of lend credence to the theory too.

I hate to be the Devil's advocate in a case involving a stolen laptop (I regard stealing my laptop as a crime even lower than stealing my bicycle), but I'm more than a little troubled by the idea of plastering someone's face and private life (such as the inside of their home) on the Internet before they have been convicted of a crime.

Sure, we could say "Yeah, but this software let the blog author see them absconding with the laptop," but debating the evidence is conducting a trial of sorts, without giving the accused the benefit of a chance to cross-examine their accusers and present their side of the story.

I'm very comfortable with the idea of using software like this to gather evidence, and I'm very comfortable with criticizing the police for failing to act, but I'm not comfortable with publishing these pictures.

Wow, that's outlandish. For some perspective this guy's hands would have been cut off in Saudi Arabia. At the end of the day (assuming this isn't some fake ad campaign) dude lost his right to privacy when he stole the laptop. The victim has a right to remotely control his property, especially when it has been stolen.

As for a crime lower than stealing my bicycle: That's crazy. Even if you have a bicycle worth more than your laptop, the loss of time and possible identity theft that could happen with a lost laptop more than outweighs the financial loss of either.

You see where you and I are coming from different places? My understanding is that in Saudi Arabia, the thief's hands would be cut off after a trial. Which is my point. I did not question someone remotely controlling their property. I questioned someone publishing certain pictures in a blog regardless of how they obtained them.

Now onto a subjective matter. A bicycle is a highly personal item for many people. It may not involve identity theft, but for some people it involves a loss of freedom and mobility that can't be replaced easily. My current bicycle has been highly personalized for my use. Having it stolen would be like having a bit of my soul stolen.

If you don't feel the same way about your bike, I quite understand.


You said that "The dude lost his right to privacy when he stole a laptop." Did you notice what you just did? You convicted someone of an offence without trying them in a court of law. If we were in a jurisdiction where murder is a capital offence, you could use exactly the same logic for lynching and hanging a man without bothering to try him. He lost his right to life when he murdered, and we know he murdered, so fetch a rope and a horse.

Now some (strawman alert) might say that the evidence is overwhelming. Well, where do we draw the line? What's the rule for "We don't need a trial?" Pictures on the Internet? Eyewitness accounts?? Confessions? All of these have been proved unreliable in the past, which is why we have trials.

Posting pictures on the internet is far different from lynching someone.

The court system and government should treat people as innocent until proven guilty. Private citizens have a lower responsibility.

At no point did the original poster claim that man stole his laptop - he merely stated that his laptop was stolen and posted pictures of the man currently possessing the stolen laptop. Other people assumed this man stole the laptop, which may or may not be accurate.

The man is in possession of stolen property. At some point we need to balance the owner's rights to retrieve stolen property against the right's of a man possessing stolen property to retain complete anonymity.

Posting pictures on the internet is a great way to get a lynch mob going. Those people assuming this man stole the laptop can cause real harm as a result, and I'm not convinced that a smug "I never actually said that this man stole my laptop" should be an acceptable defense for the provocateur.

A lynch mob is appropriate if the police refuse to act.

If elected officials do not enforce the law, the burden falls onto private citizens to do so. This is the common law with thousands of years of precedent.

1. Person A has a laptop

2. Person A no longer has a laptop. Person A did not sell or give away this laptop. The laptop was stolen.

3. Person B now has the missing laptop.

Conclusion: Person B is in possession of a stolen laptop.

This is fine line or argument, but don't you think it belongs in a courtroom, being made to a jury that has been shown all of the evidence and who will also hear the accused make his own arguments for his innocence?

This is a modern day wanted poster. I think it's completely fine. He hasn't been convicted to any material degree: He's still free, unhurt, and in possession of the item.

The website appears to have been created in response to the inability of the police to bring the person, allegedly responsible, into a courtroom to explain why he is in possession of a stolen laptop.

Isn't possession of stolen property prima facie proof of guilt of ... possession of stolen property?

Is buying stolen property, which you seller does not tell you is stolen, over Craig's List equivalent to stealing the item? Should the buyer be jailed?

No. The police possess a great deal of stolen property. The entire police force would collapse into a blue hole if they had to arrest everybody in possession of stolen property. The crime is knowing it is stolen and having no intent to return it.

Yeah.. that was pretty much what I was going for, there.

That's definitely required before bringing the resources of the state to bear in punishing the person.

If you're not doing that, then no, it needn't be.

In this case it seems unlikely but bear in mind that it's possible to be in possession of stolen goods without knowing they're stolen.

Of course it's possible to be in possession of stolen goods without knowing they're stolen... but that does not remove the rights of the "owner" of the laptop to remotely control his equipment. If you buy a Blackberry for cheap off of Craigslist, it sucks when the owner bricks it after a week and you loose all your photos/contacts/sms messages. But legally its still his phone, he can do what he wants with it.

This guy also has every right to collect and publicize any information collected by the laptop which will help him locate it. He's titled it "This guy has my MacBook", not stole, and he hasn't posted anything irresponsibly that I've seen.

He has every right to collect the guy's personal information, too, but that doesn't mean he can use his credit card or publish his social security number.

What makes it seem unlikely?

The fact that he's shown driving away with the laptop shortly after stealing it.

I don't see any evidence that Person B stole Person A's laptop or that Person B is even aware than the laptop was stolen. Or maybe that was the point you were making?

How about the bit where he shows the person deleting his profile?

2.5 Thief logs onto ebay and sells laptop to Person B


Person B is still in possession of stolen goods (which has certain legal consequences at least in Australia)

I'm not sure what perspective Saudi Arabia's laws give us. In Saudi Arabia homosexuality is punishable by death, does that give us any perspective of how they should be treated here?

Yes, that's better than a lynch mob with no rule of law.

Is it, really?

I for once would pick living amongst a disorganized mob who would lynch me upon suspicion of doing something that I also consider unjust, over an organized society that would punish me, through the best procedures, for something that I find my fundamental right.

Neither case is ideal, obviously, but it's better for a society to miss procedures than a sense of individual rights.

Also, I think it is far easier for a society to build procedures/laws than change radically its perceptions on what is right and what is wrong.

I think his point is that although the guy whose photo was taken probably stole the laptop, we shouldn't jump to that conclusion without a proper trial. For instance, maybe he bought it from the thief off craigslist. I don't know how that gets sorted out by law, but I wouldn't blame the person who bought it and wouldn't want his face posted on the internet.

In general the rule is Caveat Emptor - or buyer beware. It is up to the buyer of the goods to ensure that the seller is the legitimate owner of the property being sold. A thief cannot convey good title.

Your hypothetical Craig's lister would be in possession of stolen goods.

In fact, having photos of the person improperly in possession of your property and not making any effort to identify that person could be perceived as being complicit in the arrangement.

(However IANAL...)

Not trying to shoot you down, as despite your IANAL disclaimer the general reasoning is sound, but:

You are conflating two distinct legal principles:

Caveat Emptor, the principle that the BUYER of property takes the risk of defects in that property (except in the case of fraud/misrepresentation on the part of the SELLER); and

A thief cannot convey good title, which is actually a fallacy. If you honestly purchase goods from a thief, for market value, without knowing that the goods are stolen, your interest in those goods actually trumps those of the original owner. Counter-intuitive huh?

The original owner has recourse only against the thief, as you are effectively an innocent party to the transaction.

Caveat emptor protects the seller against a careless purchase followed by buyer's remorse.

Merely possessing goods which are stolen is not a crime in any jurisdiction i'm aware of (and for good reason), this offence almost always implies a mental element of knowledge or at least suspicion as to the source of the goods.

It is certainly the case in the UK that a stolen car remains the property of the original owner even when purchased by someone who has no knowledge of the theft.

See: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/motoring/news/2753701/Motorists-u...

My understanding was that the due diligence one is expected to conduct under caveat emptor would include ensuring the buyer had the legal title of the goods to be purchased, but this might be a regional variation or I could just be wrong.

>For instance, maybe he bought it from the thief off craigslist.

Could be but one could also speculate the other direction. What if the robbery occurred in a very short time span, and the photo of him driving away was taken (assuming it was time and location stamped) during that time and in the immediate vicinity of the crime?

This would make it unlikely that a third party transaction had occurred.

Which is precisely why modern civilized societies have a judicial system. To reach a verdict based on actual facts and evidence. Not some "what ifs". [edited for typos]

So the current facts are that:

  a) the guy owns a laptop
  b) he took pictures using it
Sounds like he's in the clear to post them anywhere he likes then?

I own a netbook - its quite small and could be easily hidden behind a sofa or something, lets say I leave it somewhere private - maybe a hidden corner of someone's house (a friends house, I didn't break in). I take some photos with it it.

Does it sound like I'm in the clear to post them anywhere I like?

The law hinges entirely on the term "expectation of privacy" so what you do you mean by "somewhere private"? You mention a sofa so if your friend invited you in somewhere like the living room (ie. no bathrooms, weren't filming his naked kids, etc.), my understanding is you would be fine. Your friend might not like it, but legally similar situations happen daily, it's called Facebook.

Imagine taking a picture at a party with intoxicated people in it, do you get everyone's consent before snapping the pic? What about being filmed on security cam driving past an ATM? So those are two examples of where although you might not actively expect to be filmed, they are still protected filming locations.

edit: typos

When it comes to justice Saudi Arabia is not an inspiring example, I'm not interested in this perspective. Their system is stuck in the medieval era, why should we take any pride from such a comparaison ?

I'm uneasy with this kind of plastering as well, it has this "mob lynching" vibe that is often for the worst rather than the best. It appeals to our worst instincts, and you can sense that the author is angry and we are helping him to punish this guy when we look at this.

I felt dirty to be honest. If you don't believe it, ask yourself: why didn't he blur his face ? Would his message be less efficient ?

I think by 'lower' he means 'worse', or 'more despicable', so you guys don't actually disagree on that.

This isn't the police (or any other government agency) posting the pictures, its an individual. If the accused thief doesn't like that he has been accused of being a thief he can sue the blog author for defamation (libel/slander).

I know he can sue. My point isn't that it's illegal, my point is that I don't like it. I also don't like it when newspapers do exactly the same thing, accuse people of crimes before they have been convicted.

It appears he just says that this guy has his MacBook, not that he stole it. He says his MacBook was stolen and this guy has it. But doesn't say that this guy stole it.

The caption on the photo at the bottom of the page (presumably the first picture chronologically) says "Guy driving away with my MacBook." Combined with the assertion that the laptop is stolen, it's hard to read this as anything other than an accusation of theft.

Thanks, that's a really nifty insight.

Is it possible to be convicted for a crime without being accused? Someone is accusing you of committing a crime- the plaintiff, in court. Isn't that all he's doing?

Are you saying that the person in the pictures may be someone other than the thief (e.g., they purchased the stolen laptop), or that the pictures shouldn't be published even if they depict the thief?

Also, are you uncomfortable with the publishing to the extent that it is a punishment? I interpreted it as an attempt to get people's attention and thus make it more likely that his property is returned, rather than a punishment.

I'm not comfortable saying the person is the thief until they have been convicted of a crime. After that, certain pictures are probably fair game. Before that, I am not comfortable with it even if it later transpires that they were convicted.

There's a whole "presumption of innocence" thing going on in my head. I feel like people are telling me that it only applies when they haven't been shown what looks at first glance like compelling evidence.

The original poster clearly respected this right. The page clearly says "this guy has my MacBook," not "this guy stole my MacBook." Which, presuming the original poster isn't outright lying, is clearly true.

I think making all reasonable attempts, including creating a webpage, to identify that person is well within his rights.

The original poster clearly respected this right. The page clearly says "this guy has my MacBook," not "this guy stole my MacBook." Which, presuming the original poster isn't outright lying, is clearly true.

As I acknowledged elsewhere, this is an excellent point, thank you.

I think making all reasonable attempts, including creating a webpage, to identify that person is well within his rights.

Ah, now this is another matter. It looks like the author of this blog has this other person's GPS location and Google credentials. I am not an expert, but I am also not sure that publishing these pictures in this context is solely a question of identifying the person.

So even if he is careful to avoid a blatant accusation, I still don't like the implication and I don't think that identification is the purpose. If it was, it would be easy enough to get in touch with this person without explaining what this has to do with a laptop.

I'm not sure where his GPS location would have come from. Do MacBooks have GPS built in these days?

Also, from the photo's it is only clear that he has the guys email address, and even if he did have his password I'm not sure what he could do with it without committing a fairly serious offense.

I really have no idea how you would go about contacting this person without putting yourself in a compromised position. I realize that you do not want people to jump to conclusions as to this guys guilt, however, at the very least he would be a leading suspect in the theft of this laptop, and that is not the sort of person I'd meet for a coffee and to talk about him maybe giving back my laptop.

Also, if you emailed the guy and politely asked him to return the laptop how long do you think it would take for him to get rid of it on craigslist or ebay?

Therefore, attempting to get more information on who this person is in order to build evidence that the police might be interested in looking at seems quite reasonable.

MacBooks don't have GPS, but they can indeed locate themselves, and report that information to apps that ask for it. Apple maintains a big database of WiFi networks with the location of each, crowd-sourced by users of its products.

This same location method is used by iPads and iPod Touches, which also don't usually have any better way of locating themselves. The WiFi technique is even used for iPhones, in the rare event that they can't use GPS or cell tower triangulation at a given point in time.

Prey gets the location of the computer using Google, I believe.

I think it's even worse that he is posting pictures of a guy who has his laptop.

What if it turned out this guy did not steal it but bought it from someone? He, his house and a sleeping woman are now on the internet.

You should read the post here on HN about scanners at airports where we all are suspects. Everybody would scream about the privacy issues...

This is an interesting approach. It seemed to me that the OP would agree with what you are saying, up to the point where the police said they couldn't help. He certainly doesn't explicitly say anything about why he is posting the photos... that said, I feel like there are two possibilities:

1.) He doesn't care whether the guy is the thief. He is publishing the photos in an act of non-vengeful vigilantism, with the hopes that someone will see or recognize the guy and contact the OP.

2.) He is assuming the guy is the thief. And, he is publishing the photos to harass/humiliate that person.

Personally I am comfortable with #1 but certainly not #2, for the reasons you cited. In #1, the guy's innocence (or lack thereof) is irrelevant to the OP's motivations.

You are, however, apparently comfortable with (indirectly) accusing Joshua Kaufman of violating a man's privacy, in a public forum without a conviction in a courtroom. Why won't you afford him the same presumption of innocence?

At least he contacted the police first, who wouldn't act on the evidence and only then did he try to garner public support for his case by showing the world the evidence he had. He even did this without accusing the man in the pictures of anything other than possessing his laptop, which is a fact arising from the evidence, even if it hasn't been considered by a court. This case wouldn't even reach a courtroom if it weren't for the fact that this website eventually got the attention of the police.

Ideally the police should have just taken the evidence and investigated the case, but instead the justice system failed. What options did this guy have, other than drawing attention to the fact that the police didn't do their job? Grabbing his pitchfork and willfully instigating a real lynch mob? Letting his computer go?

If you are in public and someone snaps your photo, they can and use it for pretty much anything non-commercial. This is because, in public, you have no reasonable expectation of privacy.

In this case, the guy is using a photographic device that is not his (we don't know if he stole it or not), specifically, he is pointing the camera directly at his face. My gut feeling is that it would be a fine line to walk, but that there might be a decent argument that he has no reasonable expectation of privacy. It's not his device, he knows there's a camera in it, and he's pointing that camera at his face...

Just another way to look at it.

Not in this particular case (photos of him driving away from the scene of the crime?), but in many like this, the pictures could be of someone who thought they had purchased a legitimate laptop on craigslist.

People would still be eager to punish the guy in the pictures, pre-trial and regardless of his story.

establishing a truth and proving it 'without a reasonable doubt' are different things.

if you personally saw a murder you don't need no trial to know who is the killer. trial is to convince everybody else.

In this case, trial might be required to charge this guy with anything, but you can see him driving away with the laptop just as it was stolen. might not be enough to charge with theft, but pretty much enough for me.

if you personally saw a murder you don't need no trial to know who is the killer. trial is to convince everybody else.

I don't think you know why we have trials. We don't have trials to convince everyone else. We have trials because your eyesight alone is not sufficient evidence, you need to consider all of the facts, not just what you think you saw.

If I commit act X, which is illegal, but I cannot be convicted because an error in police precedure makes some of the evidence inadmissible, it sounds like you believe that means I did not actually do X.

That is not how causality works in this universe.

The same is happening right now with the Dominique Strauss-Kahn sexual misconduct allegations.

In the USA these kinds of allegations are made public whereas in France both parties (alleged victim and alleged per(p|v)) are treated the same private way until a court deliberates.

Exactly what I was going to say. This is only acceptable if the website is a setup, otherwise it's just criminal to put that pictures with those accusations on them.

And what's the crime? Taking a picture of someone with the camera they stole?

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