Thursday, March 11, 2010

Crime of the Century (The Meter is Running Division)

FAIRBANKS, Alaska, March 11 - For one woman who hails from the North Pole, if once is nice, twice, or even thrice, is nicer. 
   Lana L. Schneidewind, twenty-seven, has been charged with second-degree felony robbery and misdemeanor theft for allegedly waltzing into a Fairbanks, Alaska, Fred Meyer store last Friday and waltzing out with a television set for which she'd declined to pay, then attempting to employ a taxicab as her getaway vehicle, according to a March 6 story in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner ("The Voice of Interior Alaska Since 1903").
   Ms. Schneidewind, a consistent soul, is alleged to have done more or less the same thing in December. Twice. 
   The December incidences occurred at a Sam's Club. That she tried it this time at a Fred Meyer store suggests that the latter has a better selection of TVs than the former. Sam's Club might want to get on the stick. 
   Daily-Miner reporter Chris Frieberg writes that Ms. Schneidewind (hereinafter referred to as Ms. S.; how many times, really, is one expected to type out "Shneidewind"?) allegedly refused to pay for the $450 set. (Plainly, it was not a plasma TV, as even the inexpensive models run nearly ten times more than the set Ms. S. favored). A clerk who followed her out of the store told her the television did not belong to her. 
   This shows the excellence of Fred Meyer customer care. Aware that, even at Ms. S.'s youthful age, memory loss does occur, the clerk was  kind enough to alert her to the fact that the television set she was carrying was not, technically or legally, hers. With all the distractions these days - the World Wide Web, Twitter, the state of Brad and Angelina's relationship - it is difficult, sometimes, to track even the simplest things. A store clerk bringing reality into focus for customers is an excellent example of corporate civic duty at its finest. One wonders, not altogether idly, whether Sam's Club clerks show the same level of thoughtfulness.
   After leaving the store, television in hand (hands?), Ms. S. got into a cab. The Daily-Miner's Freiberg, obviously an accomplished reporter with a strong style, nonetheless appears to have been unable to unearth exactly why a cab was handily waiting nearby. Perhaps Ms. S. called for it at her home, rode in it to the Fred Meyer store, and then told the driver, "Wait here, please. I'm just going to steal a television, and then we'll be on our way." 
   As it turns out, when Ms. S. entered the cab, she reached over the driver's shoulder and tried to steal money out of his shirt pocket. The driver, as Frieberg writes, "was able to protect his cash by clenching the money in his fist." 
   Freiberg, a superb storyteller, further writes that "the suspect" - that would be Ms. S. - "gave up the fight and walked away from the scene when passersby approached the cab."    
   Whatever her societal transgressions, Ms. S. should be applauded for her ingenuity. That she required a cab to help tote the filched televisions suggests that she does not own a car. These days, that makes her a "green" hero. The radically-inclined and deeply self-righteous bicyclists on, for example, San Francisco's streets would no doubt hoist the woman on their shoulders and parade her through town, if only they could do so whilst simultaneously balancing on their bicycles and complaining about the cars around them. 
   On the other hand, is it possible that Ms. S. was stashing televisions in preparation for bestowing them upon the town's less privileged, and TV-less, citizens, Oprah-giveaway-style? Alas, we will never know.
   Alternately, it is possible, given that Ms. S. lives at the North Pole, that she is operating under a pseudonym, and is, in fact, Mrs. Santa Claus. Perhaps the elves were lagging in the TV-production area, and Santa thought it best simply to send the wife out to pinch a few from the local Fred Meyer. It's not like the children of the world - those who have been nice, that is, not naughty - would know the difference. 
   Sadly, these scenarios are unlikely. Ms. S. has been brought up on theft charges before now, suggesting that there's really not much to do in Fairbanks save to engage in petty crime and, if the opportunity presents itself, to watch television.

   [A journalistic side note. Here is Freiberg's lede graf (that's newspeak for lead, or first, paragraph, which in a news story is meant to convey the key information included in the report): "A North Pole woman who was arrested last year on suspicion of stealing televisions from Sam's Club and hiring a cabbie as a getaway driver has been accused of doing the same thing at another store one week after posting bail in her first case." The Associated Press picked up the story and ran it on their wire. Here's the AP lede: "Police said a North Pole woman accused in December of stealing televisions and hiring a cabbie as her getaway driver is now accused of trying it again." You see? AP reporters can be just as lazy - and prone to near-plagiarism - as the rest of us. Granted, in its next sentence the AP cited the Daily-Miner as a source. But still.]


  1. I enjoy making fun of old people as much as anyone, but busting elderly shoplifters is a horrible experience. There is always a time when they're sitting in the loss prevention office, waiting for the police, when they are overcome with fear and shame and start to cry. It sucks the fun right out of the whole thing.
    Sorry for the touch of melancholy, but I can't help but think of this when I read this kind of story.

  2. I'm not sure about the robbery charge given those facts. Theft, sure. Burglary, probably, depending on the wording of Alaska's burglary statute. But Robbery, which is essentially theft by force or threat of force? Not sure about that. All Ms. S did was ignore the store clerk who kindly advised her that the TV wasn't hers. I don't see any force or threat of force in that. Alas, few likely would care about such legal niceties besides civil rights-minded barristers... certainly not your run-of-the-mill, hang'em-high judge. (as an aside, remember the guy who got life in prison for stealing a slice of pizza under the "3-strikes" law? He allegedly threatened some kid to obtain the pizza, thus committing robbery, qualifying him for "3-strikes." That's Cali justice for ya.)