Archive for the ‘Crime’ Category

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They lurk in the shadows, waiting to rob you blind…

 

I have nothing against people who buy useless crap at discount outlets. Unless they’ve stolen my bank information to do it.

You know who you are. So do I. As do the people I’ve reported you to.

“Don’t share your bank information with anyone – EVER!” said my mother, who worked at a bank, when my sister and I got our first checking accounts as preteens. And I never have. But somebody got it anyway.

About 15 million Americans are victims of identity theft every year. While many of them take responsible steps to protect their information, the world is making it increasingly easy for thieves to get it. Swipe your card, scan a code, sign a screen with your finger. Convenient for us, a new way in for thieves.

So what do you do if your bank account is compromised? My first step was to freak out and message a friend who works at my bank who reassured me the bank knew what to do. You can skip that step and do this: 

Notify your bank immediately. Give as many details as you can – how you noticed it, the amount that appears to be gone, dates, unknown names on your statement. 

Close the affected accounts. The longer the account is open, the more you stand to lose. 

Report it to authorities. Include check verification companies and make it a national/international alert. The Federal Trade Commission has helpful resources at IdentityTheft.gov

Be vigilant with your accounts. Check them daily; it’s not paranoid, it’s proactive. Use all the security features your bank offers. Be careful about using third party vendors to order checks and other materials.

Though I hope my situation is resolved, I’m still wary. Is that really just an impatient fellow customer crowding me at the self check-out lane or a would-be thief eyeballing my passcode? I’m not taking any chances. Back up, buddy, while I cover the keypad with my hand.

If our names determine our destinies, Jack Pinto was destined for greatness. Those three short syllables ring of action, purpose and charisma. A boy named Jack Pinto could grow up to be anything: a fighter pilot, a rock star, a politician, a sports legend, a hero. Or nothing at all.

Jack Pinto was a six-year-old who was killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Though the funerals are long over and the media have moved on, I can’t get him out of my head. It’s the name. And the picture. You’ve probably seen it. He’s wearing a football jersey (his team was the Giants) and the letters “NY” are emblazoned on his flushed cheek. He’s raising a power fist that says “Go Giants” to the camera and you can tell by the grin and the gleam in his eye that pint-sized Jack Pinto is a force to be reckoned with. When that picture was taken, it may not have been possible to guess what kind of mark that kid would make on the world but by God, you knew he would make one.

In one magazine article about the tragedy at Sandy Hook, it’s a sad coincidence that on the flipside of the page with Jack Pinto’s picture on it is a photo of another boy. Adam Lanza. In it, he’s smiling shyly at the camera, one hand raised in greeting. He looks like one of those kids in high school who at best blends into the wallpaper and that nobody ever remembers or at worst, gets picked on in the hallways and nobody cares. When that picture was taken, you wouldn’t have guessed that that kid would make a mark on the world. But he did, by killing 27 people, including Jack Pinto.

The Sandy Hook massacre continues to raise questions about gun control, security measures in schools, and the treatment of mental illness. In my mind, those questions are joined by one more: what greatness lay ahead for Jack Pinto? It’s a shame that we’ll never know.

The first dead body I saw not in a hospital or a casket was lying in an alley. There were two of them. They were a couple, and that’s why they were dead because the woman’s ex-husband wasn’t happy about it.

My first homicide as a reporter was the first murder in 10 years in the town where I live. It happened on a weeknight, two blocks from City Hall where I was covering a meeting. The radio station sent someone to get me. These were the days before cell phones and text messages when news tips came from police scanners and the lips of people you trusted. I grabbed my notebook and tape recorder and ran the few blocks to the crime scene, heart pounding not from the exertion but from the adrenalin of a big story and the fear of screwing it up in the telling.

I’d covered crime before in a city bigger than this one. One of my first news stories there was about a carload of people who’d been shot in the parking lot of a strip club. No one died in that incident and I didn’t see the carnage firsthand although the news director I worked for did. I just covered the police briefings and trial. But the hometown murder in the alley that night was mine to report.

The crime scene was easy enough to find. I just followed the flashing lights and the uniforms. Onlookers were kept at bay which was no easy task since a lot of them were drunk. The murder had taken place behind a popular bar and everyone there had witnessed the confrontation that led to the final act. I skirted the crowd and went down the alley. I didn’t ask anybody where I could go; I was with the press so I just went. I came around a police cruiser and saw the dead man’s legs first. I kept moving until I could see the rest of him. And her. They’d been shot.

Dead people look normal in caskets. Not “alive” (no mortician is that good) but they don’t look out of place. Bodies in alleys do. It doesn’t matter if they’re laid out sleeping or flung across the asphalt bleeding, they don’t belong there. I saw the crime scene for about 30 seconds before an officer barked, “Get back! What are you doing?”

“Press,” my 22-year-old voice squeaked. I was hustled back behind the line.

A press briefing was hastily thrown together back at City Hall. It was crowded and crazy. Muffled sobbing. Squawk of police radios. Chatter of the press corps. The police chief’s statement was short and to the point: two victims shot and killed, one suspect in custody, no names released until the families could be notified. Questions were shouted but few were answered. It was too early to know much of anything.

I rushed back to the station, typed up a quick story with a sound bite from the chief, and broke in to regular programming with a “This just in…” news announcement. The story broke fast – confessions, charges, funerals, trial, sentencing. I followed it the whole way and for the first time since becoming a radio news director, I felt like a real reporter with an important story to tell. A few months later, when the next murder came along (this one a stabbing at a local motel), I was ready.

I eventually left the radio station for a state bureau chief job with United Press International and I would have happily worked there until the reporter’s notebook was plucked from my cold dead fingers but a corporate bankruptcy followed by massive lay-offs put an end to that. Other reporting opportunities in other places slipped from my grasp because my home situation didn’t allow for a move. One of the toughest professional decisions I ever made was to stay where I am for the good of my family. Some days I still regret it.

The people we want to be don’t always end up being the people we become. The roads we travel, either professionally or personally, have exit ramps and intersections and sometimes even a good GPS can’t save you from getting lost. My road led me to start writing fiction and not surprisingly, a good chunk of it is more dark alley than sunny meadow. The reporter’s instincts may be rusty but they’re still getting used and I’m grateful for that.

What unexpected place did YOUR road take YOU and how has it shaped the person you are now?

And if you’re interested in hearing the story of one woman’s journey from the dark into the light, HOT OFF THE WIRE is pleased to be hosting author Margaret Norton Mon., Feb. 20, 2012 for her blog tour to promote the re-release of her book “When Ties Break” as an e-book. Swing by for my review and some Q&A with Margaret herself. I might even break out the dessert plates and serve some refreshments. Feel free to bring a friend.

There’s a violent stranger beating down your door. You don’t know if they’re going to rob you, beat you, rape you, kill you. Would you shoot them? COULD you shoot them? She did.

18-Year-Old Mom Kills Intruder

Imagine the scene. Front door splintered, footsteps thundering down the hallway, voices shouting, baby crying. Barricaded in a room with loaded weapons and an emergency operator on the phone, and you’re asking whether you can kill someone to save your child. You’re ready to; you just want to know if you CAN.

The rest of us wonder “What would I do if it were me?” As a bartender and cashier at a number of casinos, I was told by every boss I worked for that if an armed robber walked through the door, you give them what they want, get them the hell out of there as fast as you can, then call the police. You don’t put yourself in harm’s way for things because things can be replaced. People can’t be.

I don’t have any kids but if other members of my family and I were in danger from an armed intruder who meant to do us bodily harm, I would do my damnedest to protect them. We never know for sure how we’ll react in that kind of situation until we’re actually in it. But if you had to make the decision, right now, what would you have done?