Helpful readers have come up with all manner of sophisticated and not-so-sophisticated Rube Goldberg devices they think will help local police in their ongoing effort against local crime.
Those big Clangy Iron Doors built to bang shut and prevent high-speed evaders from making it through our Caldecott Tunnel was a personal fave, along with the ‘Splodin Poopy Porch Box – meant to detonate (still haven’t figured out how it managed to get only its intended target) – when tampered with by a prowling Porch Pirate.
It is pretty obvious to all with an eye on these pages that the local criminal element has been very active in recent months and some special tools were needed to help stem the tide of mail thieves, car thieves, burglars, and high-speed Thunder Runners who pretty much endanger us all when practicing their chosen profession: stealing from the rest of us.
We’ve come up with a few ourselves which, of course, we felt were blessed with a special genius. We were particularly proud of the SuperLax Bait Box – a powerful laxative disguised as opioids which could be handed over to gun-toting drugstore robbers looking for narcotics during a robbery – but it was soon clear that no matter how practical or impractical folks were giving these things lots of thought.
And the police were either listening or thinking the same thing, apparently, with Bond, James Bond-ish gadgets out there and at work.
A car attempting to evade police on I680 recently was “darted” with a car-to-car mobile tracking device during a short pursuit, giving police the ability to back off and track the targeted vehicle and – conceivably – arrest the occupant after he/she has returned home and watching Bugs Bunny. Those plans went slightly awry as the suspect in that particular instance, apparently so spooked by the sight of a police cruiser on his bumper, crashed his car and led police on a short, ill-planned foot chase before he could be taken into custody.
Devices that would make “Q”, Bond’s brilliant gadget master, twist his mustache with pleasure are already in play – many in mass produced items favored by thieves for their portability and high value. Ask your kids. Several tech-aware school kids have made use of the built-in “kill switch” and locators available in most of today’s phones and laptops, showing up at the bedroom door of an offending classmate or tech hijacker with police in tow – and subsequently recovering their device.
And, while we want to be careful not to give too much away, police are putting tracking devices in all kinds of things – from cars to tantalizing-looking Amazon boxes – as our video (supplied by reader Pamela Dunn), clearly depicts.
From there you can add an array of facial recognition software, in-field fingerprint readers, license plate readers and cameras which have given investigators a much-needed boost in their fight against crime. And we don’t think we have to mention DNA matching, and the cases that science has been clearing up with spectacular results.
Practices which would have taken days, if not weeks, back in the “Old Days” now take mere seconds as police are able to share valuable information – suspect photos, robbery videos – with colleagues in their jurisdiction and outside in seconds via hand-held phones and tablets that would have made Dick Tracy’s mouth water.
Whether use of this technology has had or will have any impact on the frequency of occurrence of local crime remains to be seen, though word of its use is undoubtedly spreading throughout the so-called “underworld.” It has certainly led to an arms race of sorts between police and the criminal element who spend a lot of time coming up with ways to counter the methods (paper license plates, “booster” bags lined with foil to throw off trackers) investigators are using to apprehend them.
Another byproduct of this race to capture/evade capture is the gradual miniaturization of these devices, apparent to all who have made use of the cameras on their cell phone and remember the days when police tracked thieves with receivers – we knew one as “The Birdcage” – as big as a World War II-era coastal radar dish.
There are, undoubtedly, other advances in the works and it remains to be seen who will come out on top in the Anti-Crime Tech Race, as both sides appear committed to gaining the upper hand over the other. We’re keeping an eye on developments, but right now have to call the patent office about our Super Lax Drugstore Bait Box.
That one’s got potential.