Crime in America today: It just ain’t the same

As the new millennium dawns across America, cheerful criminologists, passionate politicos and light-hearted lawmen are all telling us that crime is on a decline nationwide.

No longer need you fear being winged during an unexpected drive-by shooting in your dining room. Chances are your kids are having a tough time purchasing heroin at their preschool and it’s been months since organized crime tried to infiltrate your bowling league.

It looks like a bright new world out there, doesn’t it?

Don’t break out the champagne and party hats right away, though. Major crime numbers may have gone down in recent years, but the incidence of weird crime seems to be growing by leaps and bounds, particularly in large metropolitan areas like Los Angeles.

Once the West Coast hub of cult murder, designer drug dealing and incredibly inept police corruption, Los Angeles is now recognized as the nation’s capital for, er, spandex theft.

According to a recent Associated Press report, the manmade material pioneered by DuPont Co. in 1958 has quickly become one of the region’s hottest illegal commodities. Well-armed gangs and nimble-fingered thieves have successfully made off with an estimated $2 million worth of the glistening, stretchy stuff.

A basic ingredient in everything from swimsuits to girdles, spandex appears to be at the core of a growing and decidedly different kind of California crime cartel.

Why?

Police investigators seem to think the sharp rise in spandex-related felonies is because the popular material is easy to resell and hard to recover once it’s disappeared into the illegal fabric whirlpool that’s spinning out of control in downtown Los Angeles.

My personal feeling is there’s a huge, undiscovered market for tight bike shorts somewhere in Romania. Or, worse, American teens have abandoned marijuana and are now smoking sports bras for a quick, powerful high.

(Psssst! Hey, kid – c’mere. I got a nickel bag of span’ that’ll send ya straight to the rings o’ Saturn. It’ll do more than stretch your shorts, dude …”)

Talk about the yuppification of traditional American crime. Doesn’t anybody rob banks anymore? Or boldly stroll through Hell’s Kitchen armed with nothing more than a smile and a tommy gun in a violin case?

Whatever happened to guys like Pretty Boy Floyd and Mad Dog Coll? Does anybody even remember criminal kingpins like Bugsy Siegel or Butterfingers Moran?

All the real desperadoes today are tiptoeing around just trying to siphon enough gas to get them to their next probation hearing.

Now we have to make do with trendy troublemakers like Pantyhose Porcospino and Lycrabreath Larry.

Not only are these fabric felons pretty low on the underworld food chain in Los Angeles, they’re also going to have a really tough time getting any respect in the state prison system once they’re caught.

When a big, tattooed guy named Sledge asks what you’re in for, are you really going to admit you’re a convicted spandex smuggler?

I don’t think so …

Originally published October 8, 2000

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