By Mordechai Schmutter

Articles poking fun at dumb criminals have been a tradition ever since the invention of the humor column. I think it’s also a tradition among criminals.

People like jokes about dumb criminals, because they’re a minority that’s easy to laugh at. It’s not like we’re going to get in trouble. They’re not going to write in, “Dear 5TJT, I’m an unintelligent criminal, and I was deeply offended by…” They’re not going to organize a public protest either: “We’re dumb criminals, and we won’t stand for this!” There would be huge crowds, with police presence… Actually, they probably will, because they’re dumb criminals. And dumb criminals are always asking to get caught.

Take the story from Oregon a few years back in which a man armed with a bat attempted to rob a store that specialized in selling guns. Surprisingly, he failed, because, luckily—I guess this was hashgachah pratis at work—the guy behind the counter happened to have a gun.

See, the problem is that if you want to steal a gun, you need to already have a gun. It’s a broken system.

Or take the story from Nebraska this past May titled, “Man Allegedly Gives False Name During Arrest.”

It’s weird that he bothered. What’s the point of giving the cops a fake name? They already have you. It’s not like they’re writing you a ticket and letting you go, and now they’ll never find you again. They’re putting you in a holding cell, and, at some point, they’re going to say, “Hey, Steve!” and you have to remember to say, “What?” and wonder if this is the seventeenth time they yelled “Hey, Steve!” in your direction.

Basically, what happened was that police were called to the scene of a crime, and they noticed this guy, Markel Towner, sitting in his car outside, which is what you do when you don’t want the incoming cops to see you running away from the building. And they said, “Hey, don’t we have a couple of arrest warrants out for that guy?”

So they asked him for his name, and he was trying to avoid being brought in for three charges, so he said his name was DeAngelo Towns.

And they said, “That’s not your name.”

And he said, “Yes, it is. How do you know?”

And they said, “Your name is on your nametag.”

Because the man was still wearing his nametag from work. It happens. Every time I wear a nametag, I end up walking around with it for the rest of the day, into scenarios where either it’s no one’s business what my name is (stores, for example), or where people just find it weird that I think I need a nametag (Ma’ariv).

So he said, “Um … It’s not my nametag?”

And they said, “Your photo’s on it.”

And then there are the criminals who take themselves out. Take the man in Maryland who broke into a takeout restaurant and, according to surveillance footage, tried to throw a rock through bulletproof glass. It’s just bulletproof, right? That says nothing about rocks.

Here’s a quick science tip: If the glass is bulletproof, you’re not going to be able to throw a rock hard enough to penetrate it either.

Anyway, he discovered that rocks don’t go through bulletproof glass. They bounce. And this rock bounced right off and nailed him in the head, knocking him out. He did come to and get out of there before the police showed up, though, so now police are on the lookout for a man with a suspicious bump on his head.

But that’s not as much as police in Australia have. In April, a man in Australia wearing a reusable cloth bag over his head robbed a gas station convenience store at knifepoint. However, he didn’t think to cut eyeholes or anything. He spends the entire time in the surveillance video using one hand to hold the bag up against his forehead so he could see the clerk, and vice versa. And whenever he takes his hand away, the bag slides right back down.

So clearly, he did not think this through. He didn’t try walking around with a bag over his head beforehand, to see what he could see. He probably made the decision to rob the place while he was in the parking lot, and he got the bag from the floor of his car.

But at least the guy is smart, not choosing to wear a plastic bag. Better for the environment, and all that. I mention this because there actually was a story a couple of years earlier about a guy who walked into a store with a plastic bag over his head. He was able to see a lot better, but there were other downsides. He was like, “Give me all your money, and quickly, before I pass out from lack of oxygen.”

I’ve seen the security footage of that guy, and you can see his face clearly. It wasn’t even a colored bag. It was clear. He’s just an idiot with a clearly visible face and an oxygen limit for no reason.

But anyway, getting back to this guy holding a knife in one hand and using the other to hold a cloth bag to his forehead so the security camera couldn’t see what color hair he had, he was actually doing pretty well, in that the clerk handed him all the cash in the register. Unfortunately, he couldn’t accept it, because both of his hands were occupied. It hadn’t actually occurred to him, before this robbery, that he might have to leave the gas station with more stuff than he came with. So he freed up one hand, using his other hand to hold the knife against the bag on his forehead in what he thought was still a threatening manner, and he accepted the cash with his free hand.

At this point it was like mid-afternoon on Purim, where the kid shows up just holding his mask and his costume props against his forehead and trying to switch mishloach manos with you at the door using his one free hand.

But then he looked at the money and decided it wasn’t enough. So he demanded a bunch of cigarettes on top of it.

“OK, but… How are you going to carry all the cigarettes?”

“Oh, uh… I have a bag.”

So he took the bag off his head and put the cigarettes in it.

Which is very smart if you think about it, because the bags are reusable! I mean, he could have asked the clerk to put it in a grocery bag, but he’s like, “No! Put it in my reusable cloth bag!” He cares about the environment. You know, except for the smoking.

In retrospect, he really should have brought a second person. Then one of them could have held the knife and the loot, and the other could have held the two bags to their respective foreheads.

Anyway, police are on the lookout for a man they say is carrying … a blue bag.

But not everyone uses bags. There are other options. A few years ago, police in Iowa were responding to calls about a break-in, and they didn’t see anyone fleeing the scene, but they did see two people sitting in a car with their faces colored in black magic marker.

“Um… These might be the guys.”

It’s better than bags, right? Talk about using disguises you found on the floor of your car.

Sure, marker is great for disguising your face (if you have time to sit there and color, that is. It might be quicker to dip your head in a bucket of paint). But as far as identifying you as the robber, you’re the one with marker on your face.

In fact, for a couple of weeks afterward, they were the guys in prison with magic marker on their faces. Unless they used blackboard marker.

Why color the whole face? Why not just draw on a moustache or weird eyebrows or something?

Our final story today involves police in Idaho who were able to catch a burglar by following his footsteps in the snow.

They didn’t even set out to look for a burglar. Basically, they happened to notice a single set of footprints that approached and walked away from every single car in a few-block radius, and they thought, “That’s weird.” Nobody owns that many cars.

In fact, according to police, the man had tried to enter over 100 vehicles. Only two were unlocked. He stole some cash and a GPS unit.

So the police kept following the footprints, and they led straight to the suspect’s front door, like in a mystery story for six-year-olds.

I don’t know—if you’re stealing things in the snow, maybe look behind you to see if you’re making footprints. Cut through a supermarket, stop at a library … don’t go straight home. Yeah, you don’t want to walk through a supermarket holding stolen goods, but I’m assuming you brought along a cloth bag or something to hold whatever you’d find, no? If you didn’t, maybe someone has one in their car.

Mordechai Schmutter is a weekly humor columnist for Hamodia and is the author of seven books, published by Israel Book Shop. He also does freelance writing for hire. You can send any questions, comments, or ideas to Read more of Mordechai Schmutter’s articles at


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