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Home Government To Catch a Thief - Commentary by Ted Carroll

To Catch a Thief – Commentary by Ted Carroll

A Guest Column by Rye resident Ted Carroll

Whitby castle aerial

To catch a thief, one must generally actually try to catch a thief. It’s a simple premise. Motivation and aligned interests in thief catching are considered essential for success. This was perhaps most famously demonstrated both in an original 1952 novel by this title authored by American David F. Dodge and thereafter by the 1955 widescreen Technicolor film directed by Alfred Hitchcock staring Carey Grant as the retired jewel thief “le chat” living in the post WWII French Riviera.

In both book and movie the main character, John Robie, is a successful ex-jewel thief suspected by French police of having “unretired” after a series of robberies in which his prior tradecraft is employed. This brings down the weight of police suspicion on a wide group of prior convicts whose wartime services to the French Resistance, like Robie’s,  have earned them unofficial amnesty so long as they avoid future crimes. Peer pressure within Robie’s group of ex ‘maquisards’ quickly builds to dangerous levels and Robie sets out to clear his name (and perhaps save his own life) by catching the imposter jewel thief, all the while being actively sought for arrest by the police.

Dodge’s novel, adapted for the screen by John Michael Hayes and Hitchcock, is powered by this dual-incentive pressurization on the protagonist – by the free convicts who wish to remain free and by official law enforcement, embarrassed by these spectacular new unsolved crimes. Robie thus sprints into the hunt for the imposter creating a suspenseful adventure supported by glamorous bejeweled women and dangerous action sequences.

Today, 58 years after the film’s release, half a world and over half a century away from the post WWII French Riviera, in a stone castle in the suburban hamlet of Rye, New York, another series of robberies have been revealed. Beginning in 2007 and ending in late 2012 after a local citizen led revolt uncovering municipal employee theft of historic proportions, a team of high priced Manhattan attorney investigators in February 2013 delivered a 17 page summary report backed up by 67 separate exhibits detailing substantial systemic failures of Rye municipal supervision, oversight and honesty.

And while this report identified a high level city employee as the primary castle-caper culprit, it stopped short of identifying or pursuing any other municipal higher-up’s as facilitators, accomplices or co-conspirators. It didn’t even call on them to testify about their knowledge of his activities under oath. This investigation scope limitation is contrary to both the engagement parameters (unlimited) and contrary to the written and vocally expressed wishes of the taxpayers who paid for it.

Instead the investigation was truncated and dumped into another larger government body, the county district attorney’s office – where Rye’s prior municipal attorney (who was personally responsible for direct legal oversight of the primary culprit in these thefts) now floats above the county DA herself as a senior political appointee of the current county executive. Perhaps unsurprisingly, 6 months after the truncated city investigation was “transferred” to the DA’s office, silence reigns.

I will not assert that mid-1950’s post-WWII Rye was some kind of Technicolor wonderland, where honesty, truth and fair dealing were supervised by a beneficent ever diligent law enforcement system. But I will posit that local U.S. veterans who fought for our county’s very survival returned not only thankful to be alive but also more keenly intolerant of any hint of governmental fascism, incivility or systemic wrongdoing than we seem to be now almost 70 years removed from those killing fields. Many here have told me as much.

Elected officials today still enjoy their own kind of “unofficial amnesty,” the electorate supports their freedom to govern in their name unless a string of shocking high profile crimes remain unsolved and stonewalled. Peer pressure, coupled with an active free press, can provide potent dual-incentive pressurization to sun-light unglamorous actors. Elections can also. Try to find out where each local candidate stands on honest dealing and transparency and the biggest, most embarrassing, monetary theft in Rye City history. And if they can’t or won’t speak plainly about their views on these crimes then perhaps they actually don’t want to see justice – or to catch a thief.

6 COMMENTS

  1. Mr. Carroll,

    Thank you for your commentary. It has been quite some time now, has it not, about 5 months by my count? As a former member the situation, and dragging on of it, has made a mockery of the process which in addition to the state of City Hall and the Rye City School District makes a mockery of the City of Rye, NY. Further, I am a “former member” as a direct result of whether or not it were the last form of family entertainment in the Sound Shore, I wouldn’t reactivate my membership to a facility overseen and, in effect, operated by “brain dead” City employees. Just to think, as a former regular diner at Whitby Castle, every time I applied a 25% tip to my bill to treat the wait staff I am aghast to find out that my money did not go into the pockets of those I intended. Hopefully, your commentary will move the process along. Thank you.

  2. Pardon me, I fell asleep in the middle of the first barely literate diatribe. I struggled through the second–what exactly is the point of either effort? Something bad happened and you’re ticked off.
    Okay, got any concrete, positive suggestions for preventing future “thieving”? I suggest that both of you consider that when you’re talking, you’re not listening. The first commenter should invest some of his stash in a couple of state-of-the-art hearing aids and learn to listen. Second commenter is beyond redemption…zzzzzzzzz General quality of commentary on this site is execrable. Good for an occasional hoot and a nap though.

  3. “got any concrete, positive suggestions for preventing future ‘thieving’?” As a matter of fact, I do: banishing Interested Bystander from City government, but I think he has done a fine job of doing that to himself…;)

  4. ” And if they can’t or won’t speak plainly about their views on these crimes then perhaps they actually don’t want to see justice – or to catch a thief.”
    continued….or maybe they themselves are rewarded from the thievery!!!

    Bystander,
    go back to sleep, if you can not keep up then do not try!!!

    Ted – PERFECT TIMING!!!

  5. http://newrochelle.patch.com/groups/police-and-fire/p/westchester-da-former-employees-stole-thousands-of-dollars-charged-from-westchester-county-parking-lot-newrochelle

    “Westchester DA: Former Employees Stole Thousands of Dollars”

    Gee look at this – White Plains parking lot skimming, $195K over 3 years, DA get’s involved in Summer of 2012, indictments issued today, DA issues press release today.

    Rye Golf Swindle, hundreds of thousands if not millions missing in 5 year scheme run by ex-Rye city employee, personally supervised by high elected and appointed public officials, DA aware of matter Summer 2012, takes over case in Feb 2013, one year later – silence. SILENCE.

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A Guest Column by Rye resident Ted Carroll

Whitby castle aerial

To catch a thief, one must generally actually try to catch a thief. It’s a simple premise. Motivation and aligned interests in thief catching are considered essential for success. This was perhaps most famously demonstrated both in an original 1952 novel by this title authored by American David F. Dodge and thereafter by the 1955 widescreen Technicolor film directed by Alfred Hitchcock staring Carey Grant as the retired jewel thief “le chat” living in the post WWII French Riviera.

In both book and movie the main character, John Robie, is a successful ex-jewel thief suspected by French police of having “unretired” after a series of robberies in which his prior tradecraft is employed. This brings down the weight of police suspicion on a wide group of prior convicts whose wartime services to the French Resistance, like Robie’s,  have earned them unofficial amnesty so long as they avoid future crimes. Peer pressure within Robie’s group of ex ‘maquisards’ quickly builds to dangerous levels and Robie sets out to clear his name (and perhaps save his own life) by catching the imposter jewel thief, all the while being actively sought for arrest by the police.

Dodge’s novel, adapted for the screen by John Michael Hayes and Hitchcock, is powered by this dual-incentive pressurization on the protagonist – by the free convicts who wish to remain free and by official law enforcement, embarrassed by these spectacular new unsolved crimes. Robie thus sprints into the hunt for the imposter creating a suspenseful adventure supported by glamorous bejeweled women and dangerous action sequences.

Today, 58 years after the film’s release, half a world and over half a century away from the post WWII French Riviera, in a stone castle in the suburban hamlet of Rye, New York, another series of robberies have been revealed. Beginning in 2007 and ending in late 2012 after a local citizen led revolt uncovering municipal employee theft of historic proportions, a team of high priced Manhattan attorney investigators in February 2013 delivered a 17 page summary report backed up by 67 separate exhibits detailing substantial systemic failures of Rye municipal supervision, oversight and honesty.

And while this report identified a high level city employee as the primary castle-caper culprit, it stopped short of identifying or pursuing any other municipal higher-up’s as facilitators, accomplices or co-conspirators. It didn’t even call on them to testify about their knowledge of his activities under oath. This investigation scope limitation is contrary to both the engagement parameters (unlimited) and contrary to the written and vocally expressed wishes of the taxpayers who paid for it.

Instead the investigation was truncated and dumped into another larger government body, the county district attorney’s office – where Rye’s prior municipal attorney (who was personally responsible for direct legal oversight of the primary culprit in these thefts) now floats above the county DA herself as a senior political appointee of the current county executive. Perhaps unsurprisingly, 6 months after the truncated city investigation was “transferred” to the DA’s office, silence reigns.

I will not assert that mid-1950’s post-WWII Rye was some kind of Technicolor wonderland, where honesty, truth and fair dealing were supervised by a beneficent ever diligent law enforcement system. But I will posit that local U.S. veterans who fought for our county’s very survival returned not only thankful to be alive but also more keenly intolerant of any hint of governmental fascism, incivility or systemic wrongdoing than we seem to be now almost 70 years removed from those killing fields. Many here have told me as much.

Elected officials today still enjoy their own kind of “unofficial amnesty,” the electorate supports their freedom to govern in their name unless a string of shocking high profile crimes remain unsolved and stonewalled. Peer pressure, coupled with an active free press, can provide potent dual-incentive pressurization to sun-light unglamorous actors. Elections can also. Try to find out where each local candidate stands on honest dealing and transparency and the biggest, most embarrassing, monetary theft in Rye City history. And if they can’t or won’t speak plainly about their views on these crimes then perhaps they actually don’t want to see justice – or to catch a thief.