World’s Dumbest Criminals

Jewelry, gadgets, cigarettes—and a free television—all attracted the attention of this year’s dumbest criminals.

Illustration: Kirsten Ulve

Better Than Free
Last spring, an undetermined number of misguided thieves broke into a store after shop hours in Zeist, Holland, and ran off with a television set. Clearly, they did not know that they had entered a “give-away store”—part of a recycling project—where everything is free. On top of that, the television they had stolen was broken! They have not been caught.

Vanity Did Him In
Thinking no one was looking, the 26-year-old bearded thief took a pair of headphones off the shelf in an electronics store, went into a dressing room— out of sight, or so he thought —and put them into his pocket. So far so good: if only he hadn’t given into vanity! As he was leaving the dressing room, he looked in the mirror and, unbelievably, became concerned with how disheveled his beard was. Grabbing an electric shaver off a nearby shelf, he quickly trimmed his beard. Sadly for the thief, the clerks in the Vantaa, Finland, store had noticed his strange behavior, and he was pulled aside when he tried to go through the checkout. The headphones were discovered in his pocket. The man has been charged with shoplifting and property crime. The shaver, having been used, could not be sold.

Illustration: Kirsten Ulve
When and how could a thief get into the luggage compartment of the bus, steal from suitcases, and then get out again, without being seen?

Very Sneaky
Suitcases belonging to passengers on buses going to Beauvais Airport outside of Paris were being pilfered. Police were baffled. When and how could a thief get into the luggage compartment of the bus, steal from suitcases, and then get out again, without being seen?

Then, an observant driver noticed a passenger with a backpack and an enormous suitcase, with something inside that was moving! He alerted the authorities. Police stopped the man as he arrived at the airport, and found his rucksack contained laptops, money and valuables. His suitcase contained a “curled up individual.”

The scam became clear. Once in the luggage compartment, the thief hiding in the suitcase would sneak out, steal whatever he could find, load up the backpack, and get back into the suitcase before arrival at the airport. The thief and his accomplice were respectively sentenced in October 2017 to eight and 12 months in prison.

Clear Directions
After raiding a jewelry store of bracelets and rings, the thieves could have made good their getaway had they not made a series of silly mistakes. First, when police in Leicester, England, found the getaway car, they discovered the crooks’ GPS system showing police where the thieves were headed. Even dumber, however, one of the men had left their address in the car. The three young thieves have been jailed for a total of 21 years.

Illustration: Kirsten Ulve
A shoplifter seriously misjudged how quickly a supermarket’s automatic doors opened in the small town of Halikko, Finland.

Free Wheelin’ Thief
A shoplifter seriously misjudged how quickly a supermarket’s automatic doors opened in the small town of Halikko, Finland. After a burglary spree throughout the store, the thief stole a bicycle and tried to make a speedy escape. In his haste, he rode the bike smack into the store’s main entrance—sliding glass doors that didn’t open quickly enough as he approached. He was apprehended by a security guard.

Smoke and Mirrors
Looking to swipe some cigarettes, three crooks smashed their way through the glass doors of a rural supermarket in Giessenburg, Holland. Heading straight for the cashier’s counter, one of the men jumped over it to steal cigarettes from the shelves behind. Unfortunately for them, they had tripped the store’s security system, and they got more “smoke” than they had bargained on: The store’s security smoke machine had been activated. Knowing that police had been alerted, they fled, empty-handed.

Unlucky Friday
It was Friday the 13th when two masked men decided to rob a jewelry store outside Stockholm. But it wasn’t their day. Clearly amateurs, the men filled a big bag with stolen goods, but when they returned to their scooter— their getaway vehicle—not only did it not start right away, the big bag of loot was too unwieldy to carry. The two were arrested mere meters from the store.

Foiled By Greed
Have you ever wondered if you could lift a bag containing 20,000 cigarettes—give or take a few? Well… after loading up with around 1,000 packets of cigarettes, three crooks were unable to get their booty up and over or around the tobacco counter, out of the store, and away: It was just too darn heavy. Police arrived at the supermarket in the Midlands of England as the men fled—empty-handed. As the presiding trial judge later commented, “This robbery was well planned out, if not well executed … You were foiled by your own greed.” The men have been sentenced to a total of 14 years in prison.

Go Straight to Jail
It was late one night last fall, when police on patrol in Flensburg, Germany, saw a young man acting oddly. The officers approached the man and, checking his name with police files, found that he was wanted on three separate arrest warrants. Rather than hang around and await his fate, the 24-year-old ran away as fast as he could, jumped into a nearby car, and told the driver to “put his foot down.” The young man had gotten into an unmarked police vehicle—and not too much later, found himself in jail.

And the Dumbest Excuses…
THE ISSUE: Over 40,000 cases of confiscated wine were illegally consumed in police stations in the Indian state of Bihar.
THE EXCUSE: Police insisted that rats had bitten through the tops of confiscated wine bottles and had drunk the booty. Source:

THE ISSUE: A man was pulled over for driving 16 kilometers per hour over the speed limit in Australia.
THE EXCUSE: “The wind was pushing me.”

THE ISSUE: A Canadian woman was pulled over for driving nearly double the speed limit.
THE EXCUSE: She told the officer she was speeding in order to make it to her nearby cottage in time for sunset. It was 8:20 in the morning.
Source: CTV News

THE ISSUE: A college student was arrested on charges of shoplifting.
THE EXCUSE: It was a homework assignment—she was researching a term paper on kleptomania.
Source: Associated

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