The Criminal Mind

June 26, 2012
Posted by Jay Livingston

Decades ago, when I was reading up on car theft for a section in my crim text, I discovered that some proportion of thefts are for the very modest purpose of transportation – a sort of precursor of the Zip Car.  Can’t afford to buy a car?  Just take one, drive to your destination, and leave the car. 

I remembered this when reading Jody Rosen’s story (at Slate) about finding his stolen bicycle – stolen in Brooklyn, and then found barely four-and-a-half hours later near Union Square in Manhattan, five miles away.

Rosen focuses on the essential role of Twitter in the search. But what struck me was not the Twitterpolice procedural; it was the epilogue, where we discover the criminal’s deep and devious motivation.
The police told me they would hang out for a while in case the thief materialized. “Where do you think he is?” I asked. “In there, probably,” said one of the cops, motioning to the entrance of the building we were standing in front of. It was a Department of Social Services facility, home to the New York City Job Center, the New York City Residential Center, and the New York City Food Stamp Office. Times are tough.

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