Sage Against The Machine


Stealing in the homeless community is so annoying, so frustrating, so ever-present… that it becomes fascinating.

How is it that people who absolutely HATE getting stolen from are the very people doing the stealing?

A friend of mine had her wallet stolen yesterday. She’s not a homeless person, but a person who has dedicated her life to helping homeless people. Someone stole her wallet and immediately went to Amazon and bought things. This is probably particularly painful for her because she said that she has never had something stolen from her before.

Here’s a list of things that have been stolen from me just off the top of my head:

  • iMac Pro
  • At least 3 Chromebooks
  • My cherished Nikon DSLR camera and favorite lens.
  • A welder and multiple welding helmets and welding supplies
  • A high-powered electric drill (this, however, was returned to me for a finders fee of $30.)
  • Endless hand tools.
  • I’ve seen people just grab my Polar Pop off a table and walk off with it.

I really could probably make that list all day.

I read about a homeless guy in California who just stopped wearing shoes because people were constantly stealing them right off his feet.

Talking to people about this becomes very interesting.

I find that in the street community stealing is a multi-layered topic… like snow is to Eskimos.

There is a street culture that says, if I take something from you while you are watching me do it, that’s not stealing. You are a bitch.

There is also a feeling that if something is laying around it is probably up for grabs.

And there is also the idea of “borrowing.” That the person wouldn’t mind if I just used this thing for a while (and never returned it).

But the biggest topic of all of this is Opportunism. “If you see something that you want then take it.”

For the first time in doing this work I actually caught someone stealing a phone on camera a couple weeks ago. You can see it plain as day that he picks the phone up, looks at it for a few seconds while directly in sight of the camera and then walks off with it.

I found the footage a few days later and confronted him about it. He said that he was just keeping the phone for the person for safe keeping because, you know, there are a lot of thieves around. I am very open to plausible deniability. But 2-3 days later with no word from him to anyone sounds pretty fishy to me.

Another young man stole a person’s bike. He admitted to it… except he said that he thought it was just up for grabs even though it had 2 bags on it and a can of pop.

The guy who stole the phone has been banned from the property until future notice. And the bike stealer will have to hold a sign on a street corner during rush hour admitting that he stole a bike.

Thou shalt not steal is #7 on the all-time naughty list of God… the 10 Commandments. I’m sure it is because this has been a huge problem since the beginning of time.

In gang culture I’ve been told that the punishment for stealing from another gang member is to be jumped for 3 minutes. So, they have gone the torture route.

The problem we have right now in society is that our jails are so full that even a car thief is going to be let out on bail. We have no room anymore for non-violent criminals.

I have absolutely no idea how to solve this problem. But I wanted to share it with you. Let me know if you have any ideas.