Great Pretenders: Pursuits and Careers of Persistent Thieves

Great Pretenders: Pursuits and Careers of Persistent Thieves

Great Pretenders: Pursuits and Careers of Persistent Thieves

Great Pretenders: Pursuits and Careers of Persistent Thieves

Synopsis

This book is based on more than 50 autobiographies of persistent thieves. Shover uses a crime-as-choice framework and a life-course perspective to make sense of important decisions and changes in the lives of persistent offenders.

Excerpt

In the late evening of December 5, 1980, Michael Halberstam, a nationally known cardiologist and author, and his spouse returned to their Washington, D.C., home after spending the evening out. Inside their home the couple encountered a burglar, who shot Mr. Halberstam and then fled from the house. Accompanied by his wife and seriously wounded, Dr. Halberstam left the house, took the wheel of their automobile, and began driving to a nearby hospital. En route he saw the burglar on foot, intentionally struck him with the automobile and continued on. Dr. Halberstam died on the operating table later that evening. The injured burglar was captured by police, convicted of homicide, and sentenced to a lengthy prison term.

The Halberstam burglary and homicide received extensive media coverage, not only because the victims were socially prominent and the crime played out many citizens' worst fears about street crime but also because of what subsequently was learned about the burglar, Bernard Welch. While incarcerated for burglary in a New York prison several years earlier, Welch escaped, resumed his criminal pursuits, and accumulated a substantial personal fortune in the process. He owned a home in an upscale suburb of the District of Columbia, a vacation home in Minnesota, and several luxury automobiles. He had driven a Mercedes to the Halberstams' neighborhood on the evening of the ill-fated burglary. When Welch's Virginia home was searched, police found "a million dollars worth of furs, silverware and other valuables believed to have been stolen" by him. Media accounts of the degree and trappings of his success were splashed before the public for weeks. Although dozens of residential burglaries were reported to Washington, D.C., police on the day the Halberstams were victimized, the city's newspapers carried no account of others. The reasons doubtless include the fact that most burglars, their exploits, and their victims are not nearly so newsworthy as Bernard Welch and the Halberstams.

In the contemporary world, most states prohibit or regulate literally thousands of behaviors, but eight crimes and those individuals suspected or convicted of them are at the core of criminology textbooks and undergraduate criminology courses. Called Index crimes by the Federal Bureau . . .

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