Note: This column appears in the 2/16 issue of The Glendale Star and the 2/17 issue of the Peoria Times.
I have good news and bad news. First the bad news: crime continues to exist.
Our office is here in downtown Glendale, which, contrary to the quaintness and public safety implied by its surplus of antique stores, boasts some sketchy areas and people. You may recall that not long ago, someone who was on the run from police came into our office to stash a crack pipe underneath a stack of newspapers and then asked to use the bathroom. (We did not allow her to use the bathroom.) I also frequently see various ragged-looking locals picking up used cigarette butts to smoke and also emerging from dumpsters, neither of which is a crime, but still. This sometimes provides an odd sense of perspective when I am having a bad day at work. Yeah, the copier isn't working, but at least I do not live in a dumpster.
All of this could be viewed as rather quirky, I suppose, but things have recently taken a turn for the less quirky. A few weeks ago our downstairs air conditioning unit was dismantled, stolen, and then sold, I assume, for drugs and/or crumpled up Monopoly money. It was nice of them do this in January as opposed to August, but still ... it was not nice of them to do this.
I have also recently noticed more helicopter sightings in the area, which I do not think are weather-copters responsible for confirming it is sunny, but rather tracking air conditioner thieves on foot. This is all disconcerting.
However -- and here is the good news -- we can all breathe a small sigh of relief as I am proud to say that the "Red Jeep Bandits," our area's most notorious thieves, have been caught.
If you're like me, you're thinking, "‘Red Jeep Bandits?' What, do they steal only red Jeeps? That seems easy to track and would deter me from purchasing a red Jeep." But no, the Red Jeep Bandits, who are Michael Lopez and Lindsay Rynish -- the Bonnie & Clyde of dog park theft -- simply drove a red Jeep that made them easy to track.
And track them police did. According to the Arizona Republic, "Officers discovered the identities of Lopez and Rynish in December after they used a stolen credit card at a drive-through, (Phoenix police spokesman James) Holmes said. Police had been following them ever since. They believe the pair averaged six burglaries every two days." Or, if my math is correct, three burglaries every day. I would argue that the only thing better than tracking the bandits would have been arresting them initially, thus preventing the subsequent burglaries, but I am not a crime expert. I am a baseball expert. Well, not an expert, but I really like baseball.
The Red Jeep Bandits targeted fitness clubs and dog parks, where people notoriously leave valuables in their vehicles. (Ex. "Let's go, dog. Can you hold my wallet? No? Okay, I'll leave it here.") Glendale, Phoenix, and Peoria police were hesitant to pursue the two after a burglary, as they were infamous for recklessly driving through neighborhoods. It seems as if local police were treating the Red Jeep Bandits like an organized crime family. That is, if the mob were only two people and drove a red Jeep and robbed like three things every day. Police were like, "We're gonna lay low, track these bandits, and see how this all plays out." And how it played out was that many more things were robbed.
But the question remains: Did the Red Jeep Bandits name themselves like the thieves in Home Alone, or did police give them that moniker? When Lopez was removed from attic insulation via thermal vision and a robot -- yes, that is how it happened -- did he say as he was being led to the police car, "Make sure the papers get it right, ‘Red Jeep Bandits!'"
I hope so. Those are the types of things that make me happy in this crazy world. And also baseball.