By JERRY DeMARCO
Police are calling a couple who held up two North Jersey bodegas last week “Bonnie and Clyde.”
Nice try, but a stretch.
Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow roamed the Central U.S., robbing banks and killing at least nine cops, among several murders, in the early 1930s.
Barrow did most of the work, the legend goes, with Parker more or less going along for the ride. Although they were outlaws, their “Romeo and Juliet with Tommy Guns” story turned them into folk heroes.
Both were gunned down outside a Louisiana hideout by a posse of cops from two states.
Despite guards posted at the site to await the medical examiner, souvenir hunters clipped bloodied locks of Parker’s hair and dress — and one almost made off with Barrow’s finger. Several took shards of shattered windshield glass from the couple’s famous Ford “Dandy.”
Our local bumpkins, meanwhile, are a gunman wearing a ski mask who demands money in Spanish and a wheel-woman who waits outside.
Combined, both holdups have netted the “outlaws” a few hundred in cash, after which the Clifton couple tore off in a tan Chevy Blazer. (“Billy the Kid” is rolling over in his grave.)
I’ll concede some comparisons: Both the original Bonnie and Clyde and these two hopheads struck during harsh economic times. Barrow preferred gas stations and grocery stores to banks.
But the connection pretty much ends there.
The best description cops could offer:White female with blond or light brown hair. Light-skinned Hispanic male in his early 20’s, about 5-foot-6 to 5-foot-8, 150 pounds. Dark clothing, black boots.
In other words: Any number of people I see in my Hudson River neighborhood every day.
The FBI is right when it says nicknames grab the public’s attention. “Mind pictures” stick better than words.
Still, they prefer saving it for the most dangerous serial criminals: “Pretty Boy” Floyd, “Son of Sam” and the “Zodiac killer.”
Among other things, they fear the attention will go to an amateur’s head, making him more dangerous—or, worse, turning him into a Robin Hood of sorts.
Once someone’s already into serial territory, they say, ya gotta tag ‘im.
In some cases, a clever moniker could mean instant news coverage that stretches not only across a region but worldwide. The more viral, the better the chance someone who sees or knows something says something.
“It’s a marketing tool,” one agent said recently.
Which means it had better be good.
After all, “the Prostitute Killer” might not have been as effective a code name in 19th century England as…. well…. If you’re still guessing, then you don’t know Jack.
One of the funniest in recent memory was the “Clearasil Bandit,” who was so offended after he was caught that he sued the FBI, claiming other inmates were taunting him.
Then there were those two guys who masked themselves last year in thongs. My favorite, out of Oregon, was “Mullethead.”
The most recent in these parts was New Jersey’s “Mad Hatter,” whose bank robbery total had broken double figures when the feebs put the moniker on him. Soon after, a brave bank teller followed him into the parking lot and got the getaway car’s plate number.
Before that was the “Eminem” bandit, who wore a hoody into each Jersey bank he robbed.
The irony in that case: Once he was caught, it turned out “Eminem” was a middle-aged guy. The only rap he knew was the one he was about to take.
As a crime editor, I had reporter call Eminem‘s people. They said the blond bad boy was really pissed. Didn’t like the association, apparently.
With the economy in the tank, more bank robbers nationwide are striking at a faster clip. It’s getting tougher just getting a handle on them.
In the case of our bodega bangers, I fear, tagging might only make them more likely to ramp up. It could possibly put someone in harm’s way.
Post Categories: Crime & Justice, Jerry DeMarco
Veteran crime reporter Jerry DeMarco has covered crime for more than two decades as a reporter and editor. He writes a true crime blog for examiner.com.
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