In Strategy on July 28, 2010 at 8:11 pm
Today, with the help of two anonymous informants, we were able to secure the identity and residence of GB, and he is unequivocally NOT the landlord. His name is Jerry, and the police are coming his way. Lay low, Jerry. Lay low.
Unfortunately, these informants were GB sympathizers, as they described him as “a nice guy” who “wouldn’t do that.” They also informed us that there’s apparently a Champaign municipal code that disallows parking bike next to the sidewalk, but this seems ludicrous to me, and a search of the online municipal code database turns nothing up. Not to mention, the police officer never mentioned that our bike was violating code. I put the decoy inside anyway.
In Strategy on July 27, 2010 at 5:29 pm
This morning, at 7:50 am, I got a call from Officer Ferguson, of “We’re gonna stick it to him” fame. She told me that she wanted to interview the property manager/landlord about the gum bandit case and needed to be let into the building. When I got there, she was holding an enlarged still of GB from our video. She said she’s been camping out in front of the building for the past few days around 4 pm, hoping to nab GB, but has thus far been unsuccessful. I warned her, “Just so you know, the landlord looks a lot like this guy, but it’s not him” (more on that later). I let her in and went to get ready for my 9:15 meeting. Before ten minutes had passed, I got a call back from Officer Ferguson. Apparently, she showed the picture to the landlord, and after studying it for a while, said, “That’s me. Those bikes aren’t supposed to be there, but I didn’t put gum on anyone’s bike. That looks a lot like me, and I can’t think of anyone else in the building who looks like that.” Surprised, she went back to her cruiser to call me and ask if I should fine him anyway. A. and I agreed that there was no way it could be him and told her to hold off.
Why don’t we think it’s him? Well, this isn’t the first idea this idea has been suggested. A. and I got the following Facebook message from E.K. the other day:
As we thought about this proposition, we came up with the following evidence:
Evidence for landlord = GB:
- The landlord said it was him in the picture (but why would he admit to it but not the gumming if it really was him? A.’s theory is that it was very early, the officer probably woke him up, and he might not have been wearing his glasses).
- The landlord doesn’t know of anyone else in the building who looks like that, and he would know.
- The landlord has a motive: he told the police officer that bikes aren’t supposed to be parked out there.
- They are both older white men with similar cropped, graying hair
Evidence against landlord = GB:
- The landlord is cooperating with investigation: he offered his email address to the officer if she had any further questions.
- The landlord has only lived there for a year and the gumming started before that.
- The last bike gumming caught on the motion detecting camera happened in the image immediately BEFORE the landlord entered the frame. We caught this same shot on the DSLR, and the GB was wearing his usual maroon shirt (in the video) while the landlord was wearing a white polo (on the motion detector). However, we deleted the full video file, so it’s not clear how much time there was between the landlord walking by and the gum bandit striking.
- The landlord’s dog, Blake, has never been seen with GB. Why would he not take him on his constitutionals? E.K. said maybe Blake’s too old for long walks, but that would mean that he walks Blake, goes inside, changes into his maroon shirt, and goes back out to walk immediately after. Seems weird.
- When I saw him in the building, he was coming out of the elevator. Suggests that he lives upstairs.
- A. and I thought he drove an SUV, but landlord drives a tan hatchback.
Here’s a photo comparison:
Needless to say, this turn of events has sent shock waves across Prairie Street. Reactions have ranged from amazed disbelief from J. (the original GB victim)…
…to harebreained theories…
…to a near total mind melt (on my part). A. and I are currently sitting in front of the building waiting for GB to come out so we can call the police and for our 12 pack to cool down so we can make the most out of our stakeout.
In Strategy on July 24, 2010 at 3:15 pm
“We’re gonna stick it to him!”
That’s what the police officer said as she finished writing taking down our information. She was the same officer who came out when some hoodlum kids tried to steal the decoy, and even before we had hard evidence, she was sympathetic to our cause and encouraged us to call the police when we finally caught him on camera.
When she first came, we showed her the footage, and she asked for a copy of the files to attach to the report. She said that she will have the landlord (who lives in the building) come into the station to identify the culprit, and then she will throw the book at him.
So how does society punish gum bandits these days? Most likely, he will get a $165 ticket for disorderly conduct. However, the officer said she’s going to try to make a case for a criminal damage, which may carry a heftier fine. Either way, he’s going to have a misdemeanor on his record, and hopefully the fine will make a dent in his gum-purchasing budget. Plus, our landlord will be notified by the police, which may carry its own consequences.
Hopefully, very soon, the bikes of Prairie Street will be free from the wrath of the Gum Bandit.
In Strategy on July 22, 2010 at 6:39 pm
We’ve been debating what to do about the Gum Bandit. A. is moving out of his apartment on August 1st, so if we choose to do anything that could potentially subject us to retaliation (e.g., the shaming poster), it should ideally happen as close to that time as possible. We’d also like to alert the landlord (who lives in the building) and/or the police, although we’re not sure what, if anything, they’ll do.
What do you think? Do we tell the police and the landlord? If so, who should we tell first?
In Strategy on June 19, 2010 at 10:19 pm
We’re struggling a little bit on the technical side of our capture device at the Primary Stakeout Position. We’re a little fortunate now; while he used to only do his activities at night, he’s gotten a little lackadaisical and brazen with his masticatory products, and now has the gall to commit his salviatory crimes in broad daylight. Under cover of darkness it would be near impossible to catch the guy without setting up some sort of wireless flash to get him. Now we just need to get a picture of him in broad daylight. Cameras are generally pretty good at this.
So we’ve come down to three ways to catch the guy red-handed:
- Interval timed shot/video: Basically, we’d set a camera to take a shot every few seconds, then go through the pictures and identify the perp. Pros: Takes up less space than hours of video. Cons: This kinda is hard and is a brute force way of doing it, and we believe that our time is more valuable than this. Wait. Is our time more valuable than taking pictures of the gum some guy smeared over our stuff? No. No it isn’t.
- Motion detection: Automatically take a picture whenever something trips a motion capture setting. Pros: Easy enough to set up with a built-in laptop webcam. Cons: Laptops generally don’t have the range that we need (what’s that, about 150 feet?).
- Stake-out party: While this is in the cards, really, we want to KNOW WHO it is, have evidence of the guy, maybe have a member of law enforcement (possessing a first rate sense of humor) on our side, all before we invite our friends over for a well stocked Rear Window party where we expose him for the sanctimonious prick that he is.
We have a Nikon DSLR, but there doesn’t appear to be any way to set up a motion capture trip using Nikon cameras, or at least no one’s written one up yet. Our DSLR has the range (here’s where I start talking about lenses and off-camera flashes before the tl;dr editor swoops in) and light sensitivity to catch the guy if we get him at the right moment, even at night. First, we tried tethering it to a laptop with DCamCapture and set to take a picture every 5 seconds for a few hours. While this could theoretically work, in our test run 1) it only took 3 pictures because we set it incorrectly, 2) it was problematic to not have access to the laptop/external harddrive (where we were storing the photos) for hours on end (ahem we’re grad students, research and compulsively refreshing Metafilter and whatnot), 3) it was glaringly obvious from the street because of the large lens and shape, and 4) SLRs are only rated to last tens of thousands of shutter clicks, and 4 hours of a capture every 5 seconds racks up an easy few thousand shots, a large part of a camera’s life. Still it may have to happen.
So we switched to using an old Canon Powershot. Canons can be hacked and effectively upgraded to give them both interval shooting and motion capture capabilities. We activated the motion detection, plugged it into the wall, and placed some potted tomato plants strategically around the tripod.
With this setup, it’s next to impossible to see the camera from the street. It captured a hand swiped in front of it, but after a few hours of it seeming like it was doing something (and furiously) we discovered it with a dead battery and no new pictures.
The plan is to try it tomorrow, tethered to a laptop, but we’re feeling a little stuck. Any ideas would be much appreciated.
In Strategy on June 19, 2010 at 6:22 pm
Click on the image for a panoramic rundown of the locations described in the blog.
In Strategy on June 19, 2010 at 6:16 pm
This project was informed by an AskMe posted by A.