5 Weirdo Crimes You Never See In The Movies
Criminals are pretty bad, what with the murdering and the maiming and the kicking of dogs. But sometimes, these criminals aren't trafficking humans and running guns. Sometimes, they deal in a trade that sounds like the plot of the most milquetoast PBS crime drama ever, such as when ...
Violent Gangs In London Run Illegal Hotdog Carts
In a correct universe, running a hotdog stand should be a career powered by pure joy. And even if, legally, the city has to regulate the profession, to make sure people are burning as few fingers off as possible and aren't selling live rats, you still might hope everyone can settle matters so business can continue as smoothly and deliciously as possible. Take the following feel-good story that came out of Minnesota a couple years ago. A kid opened a hotdog stand in front of his house, and some spoilsport called the health department on him. Instead of shutting him down, inspectors paid for his license themselves and let him keep selling. Also, no one tried identifying the caller and ruining their life, because it was a simpler time.
But unlicensed hotdogging can't always end so happily. If you open up a cart right outside of New York's Central Park, don't expect the first cop who passes you by to pony up the $300,000 an annual permit costs. And the situation's naturally even tougher in London, a city populated mainly by Jack The Ripper's great-great-grandchildren. Here, gangs operate hotdog carts illegally, and when police come around to stop them, the cart guy might fling boiling fat in the bobby's face.
Many of the people running the carts are immigrants who can't work legally at all. Gangs run rival illegal carts, and sometimes fight each other with iron bars in sight of Buckingham Palace. Many of the police officers in charge of catching the vendors say they know the gang members by name but stand back to keep things from getting violent, while investigating the mastermind behind the operation (supposedly, a figure known as "Turkish Dave"). When police do think it's safe to step in, expect hot dogs carts to be seized and sent to a crushing machine -- along with chestnut carts, and ice cream carts, like the police are Roald Dahl villains.
Yes, ice cream too. Ice cream carts have a long illegal history in Britain, both as plain unlicensed food carts and as fronts for dealing cocaine. Back in the '80s in Glasgow, gangs sold drugs out of ice cream vans, sparking an ice cream war that culminated with a family of six getting burned alive. The hot dog business was even more cutthroat back then too, with Albanian gangsters defending their illegal carts with machetes. Truly, hotdog selling is one of the top two most thrilling occupations based around eating greased anuses.
People Keep Trying To Make The Trees Bear Fruit
Speaking of foods created using the process formally referred to as "Frankensteining," here's a fun method for making fruit appear where no fruit is supposed to appear. Cut a bit of branch from a fruiting tree. Cut a bit of branch from a non-fruiting tree. Squeeze the fruity branch (the "scion") to the newly exposed opening in the non-fruiting tree (the "stock"). The non-fruiting tree will start growing fruit. Magic! Or science, which is just a word for magic that has been peer-reviewed.
The process is known as grafting (not to be confused with grifting, which is also a crime). In urban neighborhoods where there's no nearby place to buy fresh produce, residents graft public trees in hopes of creating a food supply everyone can access. Now, on hearing this, you might say, "we tried that millennia ago, and the first people to show up immediately looted everything for themselves, which is why we invented property rights and actual farms," but the urban gardeners remain hopeful. Worst-case, someone still gets free food.
So, why exactly would cities want to ban this literal life hack? Try walking under a public tree that suddenly starts fruiting, and maybe you'll find out. Dinky fruits fall off the tree and smash on the ground. They attract wasps, friends to no one. You step on a smooshed fruit, and it's not as gross squelching your heel into doggie doo-doo, but it's close. Or, worse, you step on one, slip, and crack your head open on the concrete.
That's why city officials try to catch these grafters, and they keep an eye on illegally grafted trees, never knowing which ones will bear fruit till they finally do. We don't know what the statutory penalty is for making someone slip on fruit, but since we're talking about cartoon injuries here, it probably involves an anvil and a catapult.
The NYPD Has A Dedicated Bee Unit
Truly, we are experiencing a reckoning when it comes to how we think about law enforcement. In the "Cons" column, police departments are over-militarized, officers are too quick to use force, they disproportionately reserve their violence for people of color, and pursuing a culture of internal accountability is a colossal challenge. But in the "Pros" column? Beekeepers.
In the above video, you'll see a New York hotdog stand -- an authorized hotdog stand, so one still under the protection of the state -- besieged by an inexplicable swarm of bees. All hope appears lost. But then arrives the NYPD's Michael Lauriano. He ascends a ladder and approaches the swarm of 30,000 insects in a manner that he refers to as introducing himself to them. He follows this up by sucking the entire swarm into a container, using a vacuum device of his own invention.
Onlookers, once they concluded this wasn't some stunt set up exclusively to entertain Times Square gawkers, had two questions. 1) "How the heck does something like this happen?" And: 2) "Wait. The police department has beekeepers?" The answers to those are related. It turns out that a lot of New Yorkers raise bees on their rooftops for honey. But no one can really "keep" bees -- bees only stick around as long as they want to, and they might take off, possibly merging with other swarms and heading for a densely populated tourist spot. That's why the NYPD has a couple beekeepers on staff, who respond to bee incidents, and of course run the bee unit Twitter account.
Lauriano relocated the Times Square bees to his own personal hives. This was a bigger job than most, but the NYBD has to chase down around two rogue swarms a week routinely. They are also vigilant for the possible arrival of murder hornets, and when they see wasps, those simply receive summary execution.
In California, Nut Crime Is Serious Business
It is strange, looking back, to realize that the Fast and Furious movies began with organized criminals trying to steal VCRs. But we promise you, that's nothing compared to how ridiculous the story would come across as if it covered what Californian gangs are stealing today. Nuts. Truckloads of nuts.
The way it works, a vehicle pulls up at the nut plant, legitimate papers ready for inspection. Workers load the truck, and it drives away. Later, the truck that was actually supposed to come shows up, and the plant realizes it's been robbed. They try hunting down the criminal using the license plate number, but the plate was fake. They try hunting the truck down using the transport company, but the company was fake, and the broker who verified it didn't look close enough to realize anything was wrong. They try hunting the driver down using the credentials they earlier checked, but it turns out he's an innocent stooge, he dropped the vehicle off somewhere halfway to its final destination, and he has no idea what happened to it next.
And then the trail goes cold. With some big-ticket items liable to get stolen (say, the latest Video Cassette Recorders), you might stick all kinds of stuff in the packaging to help you trace it long-term, but that's impossible with nuts. You can't attach trackers to individual nuts, we're pretty sure. And the criminals have enough connections to sell their purloined nutmeats -- a truckload might be worth half a million dollars -- to easily sell the stuff to buyers happy to purchase them for a price lower than cost.
Who are these criminals? Right now suspicion's on Armenian Power, a Mafia organization part of a larger Russian network. And of course, some almonds find their way to Pakistan, where they fund terrorist groups. California has a special task force with half a dozen agents devoted to cracking down on these nut jobs, and it's possible that the crime may escalate. The nutjackings have been nonviolent so far, but it's possible that enforcers will put a hit on Baby Nut himself, which would mean that, according to the special agent in charge of the case, "Maybe these guys aren't so bad after all."
When A Bus Crashes, People Fake Being Hurt
Frivolous lawsuits are a major problem -- if you believe the propaganda showered on you by the media and corporations who are deeply interested in stopping you from suing. But no matter how much contempt you might have for lawsuits, particularly fraudulent lawsuits, we can all cheer when a certain party gets sued: the city. Why, the city were the ones who gave you that parking ticket that time. And when you slip on some rotting fruit on the sidewalk, who must be to blame? The city of course! Screw the city!
So, how do you fake a lawsuit against the city? You could sue them for that sidewalk slip of course, but if you step your game up a little, you and a whole gang of your friends can sue when the bus you're on gets into a crash. You'll have to engineer a crash, but don't worry about actually getting injured. Bus passengers aren't that likely to get hurt when the bus hits something (that's why no one bothers with seatbelts), and yet you can totally claim to have been hurt and get showered in lawyer's business cards as soon as you stand back up.
In the UK, they call these "cash for crash schemes." In Sheffield a couple years back, some enterprising criminals got a little too cocky and got caught after they set up a firm called "City Claims 4 U," and arranged 30 different bus crashes. Bus passengers who weren't in on the act did not find the collisions very serious and were confused over why some aboard suddenly fell over in pain -- and why at least one ran forward and threw himself into the windshield for maximum dramatic effect.
The risk of actually injuring passengers, plus purposely damaging the bus's shiny paintjob, means this is not a victimless crime. But for a variant where the only victim is the city (*shakes fist at the city*), consider ghost riders. Ghost riders wait for buses to get into collisions on their own, often listening to police scanners for alerts. Then they rush to the scene and claim to have been part of it.
The heyday for ghost riders seems to have been in the '90s, and in 1993, New Jersey set up a series of stings, where the city engineered their own minor bus crashes to see which ghost riders took the bait. After one crash, seventeen ghost riders hopped aboard, clutching their necks and claiming to be victims. And that doesn't count the two other people who sued the city for fake injuries without even bothering to show up at the scene of the accident.
Top image: Peter Secan/Unsplash