[Noisebridge-discuss] more about the attempted theft

Patrick Lake pat at patsanimation.com
Thu Jun 9 15:53:46 PDT 2011

Here's a follow up.

Story:  I looked up from cooking and saw a guy I had never seen before wearing my jacket, going through my bag, putting his laptop in it with mine, and zipping up to leave.  I grabbed the bag and yelled for a couple members I know and we started questioning him.  He couldn't say anything that made sense (quoting him "It was a mistake, it was a prank because I'm a hacker and that's what we do, I thought my brother gave me the bag for a gift," etc.)  Some members separated me and they spent a long time questioning him.  That really sucked to wait an hour without resolution, thinking he was going to get up and run away any minute (a pro thief would have).  It was tough for me to give that much respect to Noisebridge over my wish to get something done.  Eventually I got an OK to call cops to meet downstairs.  They couldn't do anything and the guy was free to leave.

The day after, it's easier for me to understand the guy's behavior probably came from real mental illness.  I didn't treat it that way at the time for several reasons.  
- It was just so freaky and upsetting.
- I didn't have a lot of time alone with the guy to see him show symptoms.  
- I had never personally seen a manic/bipolar episode like that.  
- I already brought up a specific security worry to another member the day before.  
- the handling by Noisebridge was a lot different than it would have been in another setting, and the process wasn't clear.  

I went up to the line of threatening to physically restrain the guy myself.  I was afraid that people wouldn't help me stop him from leaving.  Yeah I was told you can't legally do that, it's a liability, whatever.  I didn't and don't give a shit about risking arrest for beating a thief.  Especially when the response by cops has serious limits on what they can do.  I already knew that and as expected this guy wasn't charged.  

I asked the cops to give me a few minutes, to tell him how fucked up it was that he tried to rob me.  I couldn't get a single bit of remorse or responsibility from him, and that was the worst part.

In my adrenaline filled pissed-offedness, I went home and emailed the guy's professional contacts.  This morning I got a call from HR at his employer.  They apologized on his behalf.  I told them I was satisfied the message got to somebody and they cared enough to respond, so I can consider it settled.  I added that I felt more understanding today, and if mental illness was the cause, I hope the guy is not fired because of my message.  That was going out there to make consequences, but it's better for him than getting a rap sheet that would follow him.  

I still want to add photos and another write up of this to the page (please let me know if there's a good place for it.)

More points about the collective response by Noisebridge.

-  You might know cases where crime victims get their rights fucked because they let "non-cops" handle justice.  Like, private security guards or college campus security.  Example, how colleges handle rape complaints.  The solution to save your rights is call the real cops and fuck the internal process.  I wanted to keep my rights and that's why I was intent on getting cops.  Nevertheless, Noisebridge got an hour to handle things before I did.  Waiting time was an issue by itself.

- While this was going down I didn't know what the process should be.  I was afraid that nobody would help me restrain the guy, or join me to stand by the door so he wouldn't even think about running.  When shit is going down, if people are ready to do that without a second thought, it would help.  

- The laptop held everything for my business, and as far as I know, no insurance would have protected my livelihood.  Not my own, and none from Noisebridge.  Seems like it might be a liability concern for the whole place.

- What if the cops use an emergency call as a pretext to go in there and bust it up without a search warrant.  I understand why there can be civil liberties worries, and people (especially at a collective space) have different opinions about how to interact with the system.  Briefing people about the big picture is good.  

It ended OK, but if the guy was a pro, it wouldn't have.  That's all.

thanks, Pat   


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