The Lighter Side of the Crime Beat


Diane Dimond
Diane Dimond

When you’re in the business of writing about crime, sometimes you need to take a break, shake your head at the human foibles that bring people to the attention of police or to the courthouse steps. Sometimes you just have to laugh out loud. As they say, you just can’t make up this stuff.

Police in La Porte, Texas believe the typical teenage habit of taking selfies helped them catch a car thief. An investigation earlier this month led officers to 17-year-old Kenneth Davis. An authorized search of his phone revealed he’d filmed himself singing while driving a stolen car. Police also believe other videos of Davis suggest he was involved in more stolen-vehicle crimes.

Probably not the best idea to chronicle your own crimes. Just sayin’.

In New Lenox, Illinois, Ross Crampton, 29, barricaded himself inside a home earlier this week and caused a five-hour standoff with police. After a psych evaluation, he was free to go. Here’s where things really got stupid. Since Crampton had no one to drive him home, he hopped in an ambulance and drove the stolen ride to his friend’s house. The vehicle’s GPS system quickly located Crampton, and he was taken to jail.

Twenty-two-year old Eddie Smith of Mineral Wells, Texas, decided it would be macho to hop on the Internet and brag that there were 16 outstanding warrants for his arrest. A tipster called police to report Smith’s Jan. 20 Facebook boast and … you guessed it. Police showed up and took him into custody.

Lest you think it’s only immature young men who do crazy things, take the case of 19-year-old Kendra Sunderland, who used the library at Oregon State University last month as the backdrop for a live sex show. Cuddled up to a computer on the sixth floor, the buxom blonde, “did and with the intent of arousing the sexual desire of … another person, expose her(self),” according to court papers. She was charged with public indecency, which carries a one year sentence and a fine of $6,250. Sunderland doesn’t seem to care. She believes the notoriety will help launch her modeling career. Does she realize a criminal record does not constitute a good recommendation?

You’d think anyone who believed they could get away with robbing a bank would be smarter than Matthew Semione of Daytona Beach, Florida. On Feb. 20, he handed a note demanding money to a teller at a local bank. But Semione, 26, got impatient waiting for his prize. He snatched back the note and then ran hell bent back to his truck, which attracted the attention of a Sheriff’s officer responding to the silent alarm. Semione was charged with armed robbery.

My favorite failed bank robbery story happened a few years ago in Swissvale, Pennsylvania. Dennis Hawkins, 48, disguised himself before committing his crime. This African-American man, who sported a goatee, put on a woman’s blonde wig, strapped on fake breasts under a blue sweater and finished his ensemble with a pair of colorful clown pants. Hawkins used a stolen toy BB gun and actually accomplished the robbery. It was his getaway that needed work. Leaving the bank, Hawkins peeked at his loot and was promptly sprayed by a red-ink pack. He stumbled into a woman’s car in the parking lot. She quickly escaped with her keys and summoned police. As far as I can determine, Mr. Hawkins is still in prison.

I think my pick for the most audacious crime of the season has to go to a man who thought he could beat a DUI rap. Police say Brian Byers smashed his black BMW into a guardrail near his home in Sparta, New Jersey. He reportedly left the snowy scene but returned with an equally inebriated (and shirtless) friend and two five-gallon buckets of water. The pair threw water on the freezing roadway to simulate a black ice condition — an excuse for the accident. As luck would have it, a patrol officer spotted them. Both young men were arrested and charged with DUI and other crimes.

So what’s the takeaway? These crimes may not be that serious in the scheme of things, and we shouldn’t laugh it off when people flaunt the law. But you know what? Sometimes you just gotta laugh at the human condition.

Rockland resident Diane Dimond is a syndicated columnist, author, regular guest on TV news programs, and correspondent for Newsweek/Daily Beast. Visit her at or reach her via email

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