Saturday, November 05, 2011

Decline of the Finesse Crime

New York Times article about "lush workers," subway criminals who slit the pockets of drunks on the trains with a concealed razor blade.

In the world of crime statistics, there is a certain subsection of victim on the city subways: a reveler who, overserved during a night on the town, nods off on a train. He wakes with a flapping, precision-cut hole in his trousers and cool, thin air where his wallet used to be.

This victim shakes his head in self-disgust, joining the besotted ranks to fall prey to a brand of criminal as old and established below the streets as a twisted root.

The police, long ago, coined a name for this criminal. The lush worker.

They note that the typical lush worker is a middle-aged man, many of them with numerous arrests for the crime.

The article is similar to one I recall reading about pickpockets a couple of years ago. Pickpockets are on the decline as well, because the skill needed to surreptitiously steal wallets and other valuables isn't passing to younger generations of criminals, because the younger criminals aren't willing to put in the hours of practice necessary to become skilled at the art. So it is also with the lush worker.

I'd have to guess that, in the hierarchy of crime, that a lush worker falls below a pickpocket, since the lush worker needs an unconscious or semi-conscious victim, whereas a pickpocket can commit his crime against a fully alert victim.

And, really, they both are what in the medieval period would have been called a cutpurse.

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