Friday, July 25, 2014

Thieves' World

In a lot of fantasy set in generic medieval Europe equivalent, one of the stock characters is the plucky street thief. (Steampunk, as well, and any story involving a bazaar.)

But where does your plucky street thief come from? Who is he going to sell your stolen invention to? What is the black market in stolen goods?

..Did you know most stolen items are sold within an hour of their theft, and often within 5 minutes? Or that low-level thieves in present-day Manchester target soap and Mach III razors - precisely because they are hard to prove stolen, and easily disposed of (everybody uses soap)?

Or that there's a highly enterprising con that involves buying cheap gold-looking jewelery / knock-off copies of luxury goods and reselling them at a higher price on the black market, all the while acting like they're the stolen real deal?

Go, read.

One last note: while people are people, and the entire report is a very interesting and illuminating window on the world of thieves, it is also Extremely English. This means they're blinded by their own worldview. Very sharp people put a lot of thought and effort into trying to figure out how to disrupt the economics between thieves, fences, and the not-so-innocent buyers... and completely ignored any risk involved from anyone other than the police. I assure you, thieves in Texas and Tennessee put a lot more effort into figuring out if they're going to get shot by the homeowner than thieves in Nottingham and Manchester, and that appears to be a far greater deterrent to crime right there, than anything this paper proposes as a solution.


  1. Interesting paper, and very true, NO mention of fear for life in the thieves...

  2. Around here, body washes and Tide laundry detergent are the preferred targets for local boosters who turn around and sell them to unscrupulous small store owners. They steal name-brand--like Tide--because there's a demand for "the good stuff" in neighborhoods where people don't work and rely on welfare/EBT for the essentials. They have to buy cheaper stuff UNLESS the local shop can offer the name-brands cheap because they just bought it for ten cents on the dollar from Skinny the Hoodrat or one of his pals.

  3. Wow. Interesting! Thieving in the US is a whole different kettle of fish. Visiting an American friend in the UK, I was admonished not to leave my purse on the ground floor, because robbers typically break into the townhome style dwellings and steal what's on that level, and generally don't go upstairs so as to avoid human confrontation. Sounded like an arrangement that reminded me of the Thieves' Guild in Discworld books. Sad, but human nature is unchanging, yeah?