If you do a Google search for the term “Felony Lane Gang”, you will get “about 2,860,001” results. That’s a little more than a bunch. Most of them appear to be news reports with titles such as,“Felony Lane Gang targets Moms”, “EPD arrests woman they say is part of the Felony Lane Gang”, or “Felony Lane Gang Ramping Up Again”. The commonality of these reports is the generalization that all of these bad actors have a familial connection. The news reporters and journalists undoubtedly get this bent from those of us in law enforcement and financial industry security who flippantly suggest the connection. We casually suggest the conspiracy by referring to every group who steals bags and cashes checks through the far drive-through teller lane as “the Felony Lane Gang”. Singular. As if they are all connected like a crime family or neighborhood sect of a national gang.
The method of operation (MO) was to steal purses and bags from unattended vehicles, then disguise themselves as the victims, and cash the checks through the far lane of the bank drive-through. The distance of the far lane made it more difficult, and sometimes impossible, for the teller to discern the actual identity of the driver presenting the check. The thief just had to look closely enough. The farthest lane of the drive-through has become known as the “Felony Lane”.
New York Times author Nikole Hannah Jones recently made headlines herself for claiming that the United States dropped a nuclear weapon on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki due to the sunk cost fallacy. The United States had spent so much money and time in creating an atomic weapon that it used the resulting tool only to prove that it was worth the effort. Anyone who has a half understanding of world history knows this is incorrect. This claim made in the weeks, months, or even a few years after the event, would be understandable. But after 81 years of study, scrutiny, and academic review, this assertion is proven wrong. So wrong, that someone who makes it should be held in no more regard than a person who still claims the earth is flat. Of course, Ms. Jones isn't about the truth.
Giving credit where credit is due, government decision-making and policy can be influenced by sunk costs. Personally, it is easy to pivot when realizing we're “throwing good money after bad” but in the machine of government, that is much easier said than done. Particularly, when the ego is involved.
Law enforcement agencies have this odd organizational setting where it's not quite a strict hierarchal military rank and file system but yet not run like a free market business entity. Much like a business, law enforcement agencies must satisfy the needs of their customers – the public it serves, and the executive board – the elected politicians. But unlike a business, the customers can't just go to a competing business. No matter how poor the service, the customers keep paying the bill – in the form of taxes. And the executives are everchanging, so if the law enforcement leadership conflicts with the CEO or Board of Directors they need only wait them out through the next election.
I was recently involved in a conversation with colleagues where we marveled over the abundance of suitable victims that perpetuate cyber-criminality. Police agencies around the country receive daily calls from people who wish to self-report their technology-enabled victimization. I am cautious to not engage in victim shaming but the majority of these reports leave investigators speechless. Literally, head shaking and speechless.
Our conversation begged the question: Why do we even show up to work anymore? We could be sitting on a sunny beach, drinking pina-colada’s, and running Craigslist frauds from our prepaid cellphones!
The conversation was obviously in jest, but the underlying questions have stuck with me. Internet-facilitated crimes are fairly easy to conduct, remain a relatively low risk, and are very profitable. So what keeps those of us who understand the methods and mechanics of cyber-fraud from committing them ourselves? There are thousands of law enforcement and private security practitioners all around the world that have a deep understanding of how, and why these fraud techniques work. They know the capabilities of law enforcement and are aware of what gets investigated and what does not. And yet, they continue to show up every day to fight the good fight and never engage in any criminality. Even when crime is the easier and much more profitable choice.
We have reached the point where it is unsettling to lose connection to the Internet. It is like the teenage version of FOMO – Fear of Missing Out; But at a more primal level. FOBU – Fear of Being Unconnected. The loss of connectedness to others and the inability to instantly access information is an unfamiliar mental stumbling block that results in an uncomfortable feeling of worry.
We are experiencing a prolonged Internet outage at my workplace. I can do work without the Internet but losing connection to all cloud-based services and network communications is a huge blow to productivity. And working inside the farthest reaches of a concrete block building renders a cellular-connected device no more than a digital photo frame. The downtime has given me a moment to pause and consider our connection to the connection.
This is more of an indictment of modern police investigations. In the past, policing existed completely outside of modern technology, except maybe the automobile and hi-band frequency radio. A police detective would be notified of a crime and then physically go out into the community to learn more information. This involved actual face-to-face conversations with community members. Information databases were paper-based, or a stand-alone computer not connected to any other sources. Investigators were required to visit peoples at their homes, their businesses, their schools, or places of entertainment. Research was done by going to the library or courthouse. Court proceedings were done in a physical courtroom.
The police are often called to address some issues of society simply because there is no one else to call. It isn't a threat, certainly not a crime, just something that is happening that should not be and at the moment there is no one else to fix the problem. There are dozens of examples. Some are good such as baby ducks stuck in a sewer drain in need of a quick rescue. And some bad, such as a lady who calls the police because she believes a man's diesel truck is emitting too much exhaust and is single-handedly killing the environment. Anyone who has been involved in policing for more than a year can provide endless examples of such calls for service. For better or worse the police dutifully respond and put on their best face, sometimes out of fear of discipline and sometimes simply out of amusement.
This brings us to the current situation. The 2020 COVID-19 pandemic. The police are being forced into a position they really would prefer to not be. No, not ad-hoc healthcare workers but enforcers of mandatory business closing and social distancing. Oh, and forced face mask usage.