Why don't more criminals commute?

I grew up in a relatively nice part of the rather shady town of Brockton, Mass. My long ago ex used to live about 10 minutes away in the mostly affluent town of Easton. When we’d go out to eat or went running errands, she’d never lock her car door and would make fun of me when I would. “You don’t need to do that here” she’d say.
This seemed to be true. The criminals seemed to be obeying some sort of geographical boundries for the most part. I used to tell her that if the seedier element of Brockton ever got wind of their lax attitude towards locking things up, there’d be caravans of thugs commuting to loot and pillage every morning.

Why doesn’t this happen more? What protects certain communities from crime that occurs frequently the next town over? It didn’t seem like Easton had more of a crack police force or community watch program, just less poor people.
So why aren’t the poor people preying on wealthier communities?

And my appologies to Easton if this sets off a crime wave;)

A number of reasons…

A lot of criminals do not have cars, thus are limited in their commuting.

Criminals like to be able to get somewhere safe soon after committing a crime. If you work in your own neighborhood, you can be back hiding your loot in your own home quicker.

Finally, criminals like to work in an area they are familiar with, where they know which people are likely to call the cops and which aren’t. If nobody knows you, you are more likely to be reported as a supsicious character.

Where I live, Northern New England, north of you, even :slight_smile: we’ve had problems with criminals commuting to our neighborhoods to engage in the sports of armed robbery and massive shoplifting. Two examples: Just before Christmas, a gang of shoplifters was arrested fleeing from a local mall with several thousand dollars worth of chic clothing and Nicorette (I’m not kidding - they hit lots of pharmacies). Convenience store and bank robberies are nearly always conducted by small groups of thugs were sneak across the border commit a few crimes in quick succession and head home. Offenders are frequently from Massachusetts or New York. These are just two examples, but’s it’s a growing trend. As to why they commute… just a few WAG. They’re on “vacation” and settling into old habits. They’re unknown to the local constabulatory. It’s difficult to trace criminals who have no local connection, working far from home. Security is more lapse here than in the more heavily populated areas south of here.

Violent crime, pre-planned, requires a quick exit not available to mass-transit users.

Other crimes, such as fraud, shoplifiting, and the like, do not. I worked in a bookstore that was a full twenty minutes by bus to the Metrorail, and thence another forty-five to the places the likely suspects were going. Yet it happened almost weekly. Want to know the scams?

A guy, always a guy, usually a big guy, comes in with a forged gift certificate for $100. I don’t know where they get them. He waits for a comparatively slow moment, buys a $5 gift book with the forged certificate, and demands the change. Usually, they were pretty good at picking out the new people; occasionally, they could get threatening. As a minimum-wage cashier, with a wimpy boss and a telephone fifteen feet away, the cashier would usually take the short route and give the fellow what he wants–his change. I sure as hell did.

We tried to make things harder. Anything over $50 on a gift certificate changeout eventually had to be approved by a manager. The chain bookstore down the street would often give us warning, and I have to say that my manager friend would often send these folks into flights of near-rage by attempting to delay them until a) they had to split for the bus or b) the cops got there. Strangely, the cops never did get there. Ever. But often they would ditch the scam and take off for the bus.

The shoplifting side was a joke. Bookstore people just aren’t the kind of folks who will confront a shoplifter. One day, all fifty copies of the latest Walter Moseley novel except the reserves and the displays walked out the door in a duffel bag. (All except mine, that is–I had paid for mine in advance and was a bastard and wouldn’t give it up. He’s well worth stealing, by the way, if you can’t afford his books.) That was impressive, since I had shelved them in three separate places above and beyond the stack. Big nads, I tell you!

Here, in Northern Virginia, the titles most often shoplifted are from black authors. Please, trust me on this: I don’t have statistics, just personal knowledge. I had a little trouble understanding the magnitude of the scheme until several jobs later, when I noticed an impromptu bookstore outside of the Farragut West Metro station, set up on a folding table in between the regular street vendors, about two blocks from the White House. The guy moves around a lot; you never know when you’re going to see him. But there he is every once in a while, with all the popular titles from Angelou to Achebe to Moseley to Powell, at about two bucks under the cover price, or more than what one might pay at my old bookstore–if you were willing to travel that far.

Just to reinforce the OP – I remember driving through a ‘bad’ neighborhood, bars on the windows, crappy houses, etc. Then I literally crossed a major street and I was in the ‘good neighborhood’, no bars on windows, nice houses, etc. I felt like I was in one of those cartoons where you cross to the wrong side of the tracks and instantly everything is bad. This was down south somewhere, maybe around DC, I used to travel a lot and can’t remember the city/state.

So what gives, criminals can’t even cross the street? That’s obviously where all the good stuff is. Presumably the houses without bars on the windows have some sort of alarm, but that can’t be enough to deter all the criminals.

don’t underestimate the power of police to keep people out of exclusive communities. often, people regarded as “suspicious” (basically anybody who doesn’t look white and rich) can expect a whole lot of harrassment and following. criminals generally like a more anonymous environment. i’ve had Black friends have the police called on them for just standing outside a friend’s house.

Interesting…I HAVE been looking for a new career.

As a middle-aged white guy, I could take the commuter trains from Brooklyn up into Westchester county and southern Connecticut while the Daddies are down on Madison Avenue and the Mommies are swacked on cooking sherry, break into split-level ranch houses, and walk out loaded down with valuables.

If I wore a denim jumpsuit and carried a clipboard, I probably would NEVER be questioned.

“What are you doing in my house?”

“Just checking the meters, ma’am. Where do you keep your cash and jewelry?”

I have to agree with this theory. Valparaiso, IN is notorious for this. They will find any reason they can to pull you over if you seem at all suspicious to them Out of state license plates seem to be a biggie. I was pulled over on a few occasions for basically no reason, but I had a crappy truck and WIsconsin plates.

One of my law professors was black and from Michigan. According to him he was pulled over 7 times in his first week in Valpo! Twice in one day on more than one occasion.

Ask any black man how many times he’s been pulled over on a “DWB”.

In the OP you seem to be asking specifically about B & E . I mean rather than say, checks, shoplifting, assaults, murder, drug dealing etc.

well, let me see what I can extrapolate for ya.

In order for a B and E to be a profitable (and therefore justify the risk) endeavor, one needs to have some awareness not only that the building contains items that can be easily stolen and converted to cash, but where those items are, and the likelihood of alarms etc. In addition, a getaway plan needs to be in place, which means you should know the area.

B & E’s are not typically successful if you break into the house immediately next to you and walk back to your own. (the police have dogs, ya know, and up here in the northern places, the footsteps in the snow are really a dead give away). Nor are they typically successful if you’re haulin’ the tv/vcr by hand down the road and try and hop on the bus.

So, generally you’d want to have transportation, but be close enough to your stompin’ grounds to know the area etc.

Other crimes, other motivations have other scenarios.

Down here in Swansea, we have a problem with shoplifters from Boston and Quincy. It seems like they frequent our mall for the sole purpose of asportation of merchandise. The going theory is that the loss prevention folks at South Shore Plaza know all of these folks, so they have to keep moving south to find new territory.

As for other types of crime, a great example of that is Fall River. Go down the north end and there’s practically no crime. Head down the Flint or Maplewood parts of the city, bring your body armor (my apologies to anyone who lives in the Flint or Maplewood, but thats been my observation over the past years).

Nice part of Brockton…I didn’t know there was such a place! :slight_smile:

Don’t you think a significant aspect of this may be perception? I like to think of my community as safe; and crimes are rarely (never?) perpetrated here against myself or against my pals. And yet, I live in the Bronx, NYC. I imagine most of the posters on this board would have difficulty imagining that I consider my neighborhood safe and that I am not self-delusional. But I assure you, aside from the occasional “Boy, I look really good today,” sideways glance in the mirror, I have an accurate grip on who I am and the nature of my surroundings.

Gazoo writes:

Yep. Gazoo summed that up perfectly. Graduated from there in 1999, and I can’t count the number of times some of my minority friends got “looks” and “stares” from patrol cars running around town, hell, sometimes even on campus. :rolleyes: It’s a college town for chrissakes. There was a lower income neighborhood just west of campus toward downtown, but still. I could go into details if you wanted. I’ll just ask my wife. :frowning:


Criminals are very selfconsious. They don’t like to stand out, and any place unfamiliar seems threatening because of that.

OK, I’ll admit it. “Nice part of Brockton” is a contradiction in terms. You certainly won’t find me singing it’s praises on many a day. Just the part I lived in was more like a punch in the stomache, versus a poke in the eye, which was the rest of the city.
If that makes any sense.

As to my OP, the town I live in now is Kansas City. (Kind of of like a kick in the shins, on the ol’ Brockton-meter)
The weird thing about this town is that there is all sorts of crime and murders all over the place, yet there are certain blocks that seem OK. Almost like a checkerboard pattern of good and bad neighborhoods, only much smaller.

Good ol’ KC… Got that small-town feel, with the big-city crime rate. :rolleyes:

All the above remarks about Brockton surprise me. Wasn’t it featured in the movie The Crush about 10 years ago? It looked to me like a very upscale suburb, next to a beautiful river and everything. Was that a different Brockton?

All the above remarks about Brockton surprise me. Wasn’t it featured in the movie The Crush about 10 years ago? It looked to me like a very upscale suburb, next to a beautiful river and everything. Was that a different Brockton? **


Oh, no… I can’t imagine that’d be our beloved Brockton.
Certain smaaall parts are upscale, but for the most part it’s known for having produced great boxers (Rocky Marciano, Marvelous Marvin Hagler), one of the country’s better high school football teams (at least when I attended), and lots and lots of crime.

Brockton’s official motto is “Brockton: City of Champions”.
It ought to be “Brockton: You wanna piece of this?!”

The city did come up in the movie “Coneheads”. Adam Sandler sells Dan Akroid a fake ID that identifies him as a Brockton, Mass. resident.
Yay, Brockton :rolleyes:

Part of it is that a lot of criminals don’t really plan ahead very well or at all. What I mean is, they need $$ for their next drug fix, so they wander into the nearest store and rob it.

Put another way, it’s just more convenient.

I agree that police surveillance / harassment makes a difference, but it’s not everything.

I remember visiting two post offices with a friend in New York City. One was on 125th street - inch thick plexiglass everywhere, sophisticated contraptions for handing packages to the mail clerks, etc. The other was on 112th street, perhaps a 20 minute walk away. No glass at all. And there’s way too many people passing through both areas for the police to harass “outsiders.”

Maybe most criminals don’t commute, but from the number of prosecutions for it, most of them do seem to associate.

I never saw the movie, and I don’t know where the story was based, but I can tell you it was filmed in Vancouver, Canada.[/hijack]