Banks need to focus on cameras
HOW IS IT that cameras miles up in space can take clear images of something as small as a pack of cigarettes, yet banks still can't take un-fuzzy photographs of stationary robbers?
We can get perfectly clear photos of speeding trains and planes, but banks can't seem to be able to snap a decent shot of some knucklehead simply standing in their lobby.
It's enough to make the most whacked, paranoid conspiracy theorist consider that maybe "the man" is incapable of keeping us all under surveillance. Big Brother might be looking over your shoulder, but he's got cataracts.
Some Willie Sutton wannabe has been knocking over Honolulu banks in broad daylight since October, and the cereal-box prize cameras haven't gotten one clear photo of the guy. My cell-phone camera, which has the resolution of about 13 pixels, takes better photos than bank cameras.
This paper ran a bank photo of the robber on the front page the other day. The image showed a kumquat with a goatee wearing a backward blue baseball cap. An out-of-focus kumquat. If you see any baseball cap-wearing kumquats, be sure to call CrimeStoppers.
THE PAPER also ran six other surveillance photos of the robber, and in each one of them you couldn't even tell whether the robber was a man, woman or crash test dummy.
What gives? We know the technology exists to take excellent photos of slow-moving objects. (Remember the O.J. low-speed chase?) All the robberies have taken place during the day, and most bank lobbies are lighted up like a baseball diamond during the World Series, so we know lighting isn't the problem.
So why can't financial institutions spend a few extra bucks to deter the only crime banks have to worry about: holdups?
The bank I go to has a 6-foot-wide, flat-panel high-definition video monitor on its wall that broadcasts cute little commercials to customers. That thing must have cost several thousand dollars. How about shooting a few grand into the surveillance camera fund? That way, someone reading the newspaper or watching the nightly news might actually be able to identify the robber as the weird kid down the street, instead of thinking it's a photo of Sasquatch taken through the bottom of a Coke bottle.
Like all past serial bank robbers in Honolulu, this idiot will be caught. (And, if history is any indication, he will be caught before this column hits the streets.) This genius wears disguises. (If he knew anything about the quality of bank surveillance cameras, he wouldn't bother.)
His disguises, from shaggy wigs to fake beards, are so outlandish that some bank employees have left the building and locked the doors when they saw him coming. Some even followed him and saw the car he drove off in. (Sorry, no grainy photo of the car available.)
This dummy will be caught not because someone will recognize him in a fuzzy surveillance photo, but because one of his neighbors is going to notice him flashing money around and bragging about his exploits. John Dillinger he ain't. We live on a small island. There literally is nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. A true professional bank robber would spring for an airline ticket and ply his trade on the mainland. (Dude, at least go to a neighbor island.)
My one fear is that when cops catch this guy, we'll learn he actually is fuzzy and out of focus, and all the cameras were working perfectly.
, the National Society of Newspaper Columnists' 2004 First Place Award winner for humor writing, appears Sundays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org