The Sorry Case of the Truck Full of Shoes

Day 36. 96 pages, 43,197 words.

Here’s another incident I only just heard about, because of what was in my opinion a really big-hearted and mature backlash to said incident.

In the midst of a season characterised by high levels of distrust between the community and local law enforcement, and at a time when police seem to just be routinely murdering civilians, the Norfolk Southern railroad company planned an operation intended to take down a group of possibly organised criminals who were breaking into their yards and trains, and stealing stuff.

The operation, according to Norfolk Southern official Herbert Smith, “was in direct response to ongoing cargo theft from parked and locked containers and trailers in that area. It must be noted that these break-ins included the theft of guns and ammunition that found their way into the local community.”

So, great, okay. Let’s stop that, because theft is bad and also guns are bad if they’re in the hands of bad guys and anyone who got one of those guns would have been bad because there are perfectly legal and legitimate ways to get hold of a gun so – alright that’s not the point so let’s not get sidetracked. They were trying to stop a crime. Stopping crimes is good.

The solution, apparently, was to leave a truck full of shoes out, and arrest whoever climbed in there and stole a pair.

Now first things first, and this should be painfully obvious on only the briefest reflection, the sting failed dismally. Three men, aged 21, 36 and 59, were arrested for breaking into the “bait trucks” according to this article. And “most of the charges were later dropped”, which (I’m no mathematician but) I assume means they charged … one guy?

Also, those three don’t at a casual read sound like an organised crime syndicate who normally break into locked train yard containers and steal guns and ammunition. In fact, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that actually organised criminals would have seen this trap a mile away, and laughed. So the people who ended up being caught were … well, dumbarses.

There, I said it. They were fucking idiots. Who sees an ‘unattended’ truck and just decides to go on and help themselves to the contents? Idiots, that’s who.

Look, I get the compulsion. I’ve walked past open trucks and pallets lying on pavements, clearly unattended, and thought “how easy would it be to just grab a slab of that soft drink, or a box of those electronics?” … but then I didn’t do that. And yes, I freely admit that I don’t have any conception of poverty and desperation. I’m fine. I don’t need to steal off trucks, I can buy the things I need. And I’m very fortunate to be able to. If a time comes when I am unable to provide for my family, I guess we’ll see what happens.

I don’t, incidentally, dismiss the comparison between Nikes or mobile phones as “luxury items” and food as a “necessity”. A truck of free stuff is a truck of free stuff. If you’re desperate, then those shoes are money. If you’re just sick of your kids having to go to school in your twenty-year-old hand-me-downs, those shoes are shoes. It might somewhat erode the sympathetic nature of your position when you say something like “my poor kids, I can’t afford to buy them name-brand top-shelf sneakers, they have to make do with crappy supermarket or flea market shoes”, that’s a fact. Like I said, I personally am doing fine – and I still get my shoes and my kids’ shoes from supermarkets and flea markets. Get out.

But look, I’m not here to write an essay on fiscal responsibility. I’m just saying, I can see how the sting was pretty crappy and cynical and wound up targeting and hurting people who didn’t really deserve it. Even those not caught stealing wound up being hurt because of what this operation said about their home.

Yeah, it was crappy. First, as I was saying, it didn’t work. Of course it didn’t work. It didn’t hit its intended targets, and instead served to deepen distrust and reaffirm the suspicions and prejudices of the police and the population outside Englewood (and other places, the sting apparently had several fronts but I didn’t have time to read up on them all). And second, as mentioned perhaps over-dramatically in the video I first saw on this, it fed the prison-industrial complex with more minority meat. Which I guess might refer to the one guy whose charges weren’t dropped?

On the other hand, cunts broke the fucking law. Whole lot of poor and bigotry-victimised people didn’t steal shoes out of that truck. Like I commented on one video I’ve linked below, saying it was the authorities’ fault for leaving a truck full of shoes sitting in a bad neighbourhood is pretty much like saying it’s a girl’s fault for going into a bad neighbourhood wearing a short dress. At some point, it becomes the bad neighbourhood’s fault, and the fault of the people who are doing bad things to make it a bad neighbourhood, and I think that point is right at the fucking start.

Now, there are ways to make it better. Ways to stop the bad neighbourhood being a bad neighbourhood. And this sting was definitely not one of them. “Norfolk Southern recognizes that, despite the need to safeguard freight in the area, this operation eroded trust between law enforcement and the community,” as Herbert Smith of Norfolk Southern wrote. “We sincerely regret that our actions caused further unease, and we don’t plan to use this method in the future.” Nobody came out of this looking good.

Well, except for Vic Mensa and the SaveMoneySaveLife foundation, as I linked in the article above. They funded an “anti-bait truck” and gave away a ton of shoes. Which is simply wonderful. Be a positive force. That is amazing. It’s maybe the best possible way[1] a community and those in a position of privilege could have reacted to the sting and any attitudes – perceived or actual – that went along with it.

[1] I mean, short of calling it a “master-bait truck”, in reference to the penal system being a modern form of slavery in the US, and also obviously making it sound like “masturbate”. But this isn’t a perfect world – it’s just the world.

The YouTube videos I found about the case were … interesting. I wasn’t able to find the TYT / Francis Maxwell video that sent me down this road, since it was only on Facebook … it’ll probably have shown up by the time I post this. But like I say, I found it perhaps a little hysterical and (yes, in a sense) victim-blaming, although its heart was surely in the right place.

This video right here provides a decent break-down on the case, although I’d advise caution because a lot of his other videos are pretty out there. But see, a broken clock can be right twice a day, when it says it’s the same time I’ve just said:

Worth it just for the word “kerfuffle” though, am I right?

But yeah, wasn’t this a standard sting operation? It’s okay to try to do it to catch big fish (which arguably they were trying to do here too), but catching amateurs and maybe setting them straight is out of bounds? It’s fine to pretend to be an underage kid in a chat room to catch a paedophile, but not to leave property unattended and then bust the people who try to steal that property?

Nobody came out looking good, except SaveMoneySaveLife. I said that already. Norfolk Southern needed to handle this better. But I think it was a pretty basic sting and it netted some pretty fucking basic crooks. In every sense of the word.

Then there was this bizarre rambling video:

Either proving that YouTube’s algorithm is broken, or as racist as all the hysterics are saying, or else that it just hasn’t caught up with the “anti-bait” side yet.

See, this one was disheartening[2]. First of all, get the fuck out with this negativity towards Colin Kaepernick. That man is a goddamn hero the US does not deserve. And I see your backhand attack on both the “true black community” of Englewood who hasn’t made a positive change, and the “half-black mulatto (with the white mother, surprise surprise [I mean what the actual fuck dude])” Mensa for not staying in his lane.

[2] And I say this in full awareness of the fact that if I started to look too much at the rest of the videos by the first dude I linked, or if I started to think in too much detail about why the main search results for this case all seemed to provide ickily right-leaning views, I’d have a whole other blog post on my hands.

Come back in here and get the fuck out again. What the fuck.

Sure. A lot of people could be doing more to help, and that includes me and it sure as shit includes this Steven Brown jackass, whose visibility I know I shouldn’t be helping here (probably not Anthony Brian Logan either, if I’m being honest). But that fact doesn’t make it okay to go tearing down the people who are actually doing amazing things to help.

Goddamn it, humans.

– Written on and posted from my Huawei mobile phone while on the bus in the morning and afternoon, respectively.

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One Response to The Sorry Case of the Truck Full of Shoes

  1. Agreed. But at least those cops can say they are NOT Master Baiters. That’s something?

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