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by Pauli Poisuo
Most criminal gangs have some kind of unifying theme, like a signature leather vest, or gang colors, or a large facial tattoo that says: “HEY GUYS LOL I AM IN A GANG”. Apart from that, though, their activities tend to be the kind of basic awful-person stuff you’d imagine. Extortion, drugs, guns; you know the drill.
Most criminal gangs, that is. Because the ones we’re talking about today decided that regular gang antics are for amateurs. Then, they chose the strangest criminal activity they could imagine, and made that their Forever Thing.
Chewing Gum Bandits See Gum As Literal Currency
So, uh ... you read that right. There’s an actual, organized criminal movement out there stealing freaking chewing gum from UK stores. Yeah, we know that “foreign gangs steal our precious British chewing gum” sounds like the kind of headline Daily Mail would publish, so before we even begin, here’s a few decidedly non-Daily Mail sources saying the exact same thing.
Here’s how it works: You may have heard how a few years ago (and well before everyone started freaking about Tide Pods), certain criminal circles started using Tide detergent as a currency to buy and sell drugs. Apparently, the Eastern European country of Romania has similar tendencies when it comes to chewing gum, only instead of drugs, they’ve just sort of started using chewing gum as petty cash.
“Hey, a quarter! Well ... close enough.”
According to the investigators on the no doubt career-boosting Chewing Gum Robbers Case, Romanian shopkeepers have a long-running habit of giving customers pieces of chewing gum and other candy of the “This would disappoint you pretty badly on Halloween” variety instead of actual change. And when chewing gum is commonly used instead of a currency, it essentially becomes currency. To you, these criminals seem like they’re stealing unreasonable amounts of half-assed candy. From their point of view, they’re robbing all the coins out of the store’s cash register. Which, of course, is a far more douchey thing to do.
Of course, we’re not talking about multi-billion dollar heists, here. The average haul is worth a few hundred bucks, and the criminals do get caught every once in a while, because hey, you try inconspicuously stealing hundreds of dollars’ worth of chewing gum from a single store. (Disclaimer: Please don’t do that. Chewing gum is awful, and chances are your local McDonald’s won’t accept it as a currency.) Still, it’s a big enough problem for the British Retail Consortium to get concerned. After all, having to unexpectedly restock Mystery Flavor Hubba Bubba three times a week must play merry hell on their supply chain planning.
The “Piranhas” Of Venezuela Specialize In Stealing Women’s Hair
Calling your group of criminals “Piranhas” invokes very specific imagery. Half of your gang are possibly small, wiry cutthroats with nasty knives. The other half are huge, bald men who file their teeth to points, just to flash their terror-grins and show the world that they’re so hardcore, even DIY dentistry doesn’t budge them. In summary, Piranhas would be the exact wrong kind of badasses; a slash-n-stab gang that you absolutely, positively don’t want to mess with.
And they may very well be like that. We don’t know. What we do know, however, is that none of that criminal ruthlessness is what they’re really known for. They’re known for their favorite crime: They cut women’s hair off with scissors.
Nope. Think less permission-y. More “smash-n-grabby”.
Yeah, seriously. Just lop it off in the middle of the street and run away, possibly screaming “Woo-hoo!” as they comically skirt around the corner. Not that we’re trying to make light of the crime. While this is hardly the most disturbing thing a dude known as a “Piranha” can get up to with a sharp cutting implement, giving women unexpected, inexpertly executed haircuts is a jerk move of the highest variety, and only the most odorous of all butt-fruits would ever consider making it his main source of profit.
Because, yes, of course there’s profit to be made here. The Piranhas are said to make big bucks with the hair they steal ... by selling it to local hairdressers and beauty salons, where an extension made from real hair can set you back as much as $500.
A Biker Gang Lives To Terrorize Baltimore (With Sick Wheelies)
They’re called the Twelve O’Clock Boyz, and they are a 100-man biker gang that keeps the city of Baltimore in a constant state of fear. And when we say “fear,” we mean that some people probably find of them kind of annoying, because their method of biker rowdiness is riding around town on dirt bikes.
Yep, that’s it, and yep, that makes them criminals. Turns out, Baltimore has a pretty weird attitude about dirt bikes. They’re completely illegal to ride within the city. However, thanks to a 1999 accident where a dirt bike driver died while a police officer was allegedly giving chase, the city also has a rule that prevents cops from chasing them.
Free Wheelie. Rated PG.
So the Twelve O’Clock Boyz don’t give a damn. Knowing full well that what they’re doing is illegal, they congregate in masses and perform all kinds of zany stunts all over town. Imagine that one time you played GTA IV and went nuts on a motorbike. Just straight up tore through town. It’s like that, but there’s a whole, free-wheeling gang involved, no one’s shooting anyone, and the cops won’t come no matter how annoyingly you mess around.
Of course, the cops aren’t entirely passive about the whole thing. They’ve just learned to circumvent the rules by stalking them instead of chasing. They keep an eye on the gang in unmarked cars and police helicopters. They even lurk behind corners, tasers in hand, ready to take a rider down if necessary. Combine this with some bikers’ tendency to hurl “Come get me” taunts at the cops, and the whole thing amounts to a crazy, cartoonish cat-and-mouse game.
Hey, at least it beats knife fights.
A Gang Of Perpetually Pregnant Shoplifters
Sometimes the best place to hide is where everyone can see, and few people are more visible than pregnant ladies. What’s more, we’re accustomed to treating them with extra care and respect, so most people think a little longer than usual before “excuse me, ma’am”-ing someone with a baby bump.
Of course, we’re not saying that this one-two punch of invincibility might make a pregnant woman a great criminal should it take her fancy. We don’t need to, because here’s a gang of Chinese pregnant shoplifters who were so extremely good at what they did that they stayed in the crime business for over a decade.
The group was known as the Big Belly Gang (yes, really), and before the Hangzhou police caught them in 2011, the 47-mom-strong ring was responsible for the majority of in-store thefts in the city. The way they operated was as simple as it was deviously systematic. The ladies entered the store in groups of five: Three non-pregnant accomplices and two full-blown pregnant gangstas. The ladies who weren’t pregnant would distract staff with assorted shenanigans. Meanwhile, the pregnant women inconspicuously stole everything that wasn’t nailed down, and waltzed off with their best “Look, clearly I could do no wrong. I’m a vessel for new life, here!” game face.
Whereas this dude is clearly a beer thief.
Apart from its effectiveness in the thievery department, the whole arrangement served the very practical function of keeping everyone out of jail. China’s judicial system is notoriously hard on criminals, but it has one very specific “Get Out Of Jail Free” card: Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding can plead “a special situation,” which tends to bring about their immediate release. This probably wouldn’t work if they had a ritual murder ring going, but a comparatively petty crime ring like the Big Belly Gang was able to exploit this loophole to their heart’s content.
Of course, pregnancy is not forever, which was a very special kind of problem for the enterprising women who wished to remain active players in the group. Some members solved this problem with a constant, vicious loop of pregnancies and abortions. The majority of the gang, however, just opted to let nature take its course a whole lot. For ten years, this worked like a dream: One of the most enterprising gang members was arrested and begrudgingly released a whopping 47 times.
By the time the city of Hangzhou finally got tired of their repeat antics and decided to dismantle the entire Big Belly Gang in a month-long operation, the majority of the gang members had slapped China’s one-child policy in the face by having 3-8 children each. Which, come to think of it, probably got them in way hotter water than the shoplifting.
The Dinner Set Gang Only Robbed Rich People Who Were Eating
Look, don’t get us wrong. Stealing is a crime, and a proper Rogue is not a criminal. A proper Rogue definitely wouldn’t set up a gang that specializes in stealing things.
That being said, in the entirely speculative situation that they would, it would probably look a whole lot like the Dinner Set Gang. They were basically burglars, but their modus operandi was highly specific, and very difficult not to appreciate (purely out of scientific interest, of course): They targeted rich people’s jewelry ... and their manners.
The dinners of the rich can be highly ritualistic and rigid things. They dress up and invite guests. Butlers and maids summon them to the dining room. The multi-course meals peppered with polite conversation can go on for hours, and leaving the table before the coffee is considered impolite. As an added bonus for an aspiring thief: When the targets were home and busy entertaining guests, the alarm systems of the house would be turned off.
Having noticed the ridiculously strict manners of the Rich Person Dinner, the Dinner Set Gang started taking notes. Once they had figured out the surprisingly predictable pattern, it was just a matter of hanging around the premises undetected. When the targets were busy stuffing food in their face holes and doing their level best to avoid social mishaps, the gang members quietly entered the house and stripped the joint of any jewelry that the diners weren’t actively wearing. As the gang’s founder and self-professed “best jewel thief” Peter Salerno puts it: “They never expect you. They don’t expect anybody to be in there with them while they’re having dinner.”
Holy crap, they even stole the guests!
The Dinner Set Gang terrorized the Palm Beach area throughout the 1960s and 1970s. Unfortunately for Peter Salermo, no good thing in this life lasts forever. He was eventually caught and put behind bars. Not for all the burglary, mind you. He got his conviction from illegal distribution of Oxycontin, which he’d originally started taking because all that building-climbing and jewel-carrying had given him a back ache. Life can come at you in funny ways.
Still, the Dinner Set Gang’s legacy lived on. In mid-2000s, an estimated 100 cat burglars operated in Florida alone, and most of them had liberally borrowed from Salermo’s bag of tricks.