The TriadCity Adventurer
Does Crime Pay?
A Conversation With Poobah
Month of Lions 20, Year of the Tiger 5
With the introduction of courts and due process to the City, crime and punishment are hot topics. Crimes such as malopathy and pickpocketing, no longer attached to a mandatory death penalty, are sexier than ever before.
Esteemed fellow-journalist Sophia recently produced an informative interview with an ex-convict detailing the justice system from an intimate perspective, which answered many pressing questions and raised new ones as well.
Today, I was fortunate enough to record a conversation with Poobah, the city's foremost architect, on the topics of CrimeNet, justice and the court systems.
Anderr: What is CrimeNet?
Poobah: basically just a passive electronic and biometric sensor network.
Anderr: CrimeNet is reportedly present in most, if not all, shops, and is said to exist anywhere that electronics exist. Is that correct?
Poobah: i think the answer is yes. you might ask occam, who seems to have a special rapport with the central computer, for details. keep in mind the difference between "electrical" and "electronic" devices. is an electric can opener connected to a network, or is it just a motor driven by electricity? probably only the central computer can answer.
Anderr: If CrimeNet is present in a location, does it decrease the chance of a criminal actually succeeding at their crimes?
Poobah: not so much. it's just a passive sensor network combining biometrics and artificial intelligence. i'm not that technical, maybe mark or another code warrior can tell you more, but, i think the a.i. is more artificial than intelligent. apologies to the central computer!
Anderr: So CrimeNet is not a foolproof crime-preventer?
Poobah: more of a crime-deterrent, i'd expect.
Anderr: Is it possible that, for example, a thief succeeds in stealing without being noticed by the victim or anyone else in the room, but is still detected by CrimeNet?
Poobah: i'm sure there are limits to what crimenet can perceive. there must be, because i personally am familiar with some extremely - extremely - wealthy professional criminals. i know one thief who owns three or four luxury villas near the park south. are they stealing only in places where crimenet doesn't exist? maybe. i suppose that's possible. doesn't seem likely.
Anderr: If someone is detected by CrimeNet when they commit a crime, they get put on the wanted list. I understand that most merchants prefer not to do business with wanted criminals, and that their bank accounts are frozen also. Are there any other effects, besides police pursuit?
Poobah: i believe those are the main effects of being wanted. not an easy state to be in, i must imagine.
Anderr: No kidding! And speaking of police pursuit, I understand that there is a detective in the NorthWest who pursues and apprehends criminals in that Third. Does he or she have counterparts in the other Thirds?
Poobah: yeppers. there are detective bots in the south, and private bounty hunters in northeast.
Anderr: Sobering news for any would-be scofflaws. If someone is on the wanted list, but still evading capture, if they were to commit other crimes before being caught, would they be tried for all detected crimes, just the first one, just the most severe, or what?
Poobah: all of 'em. the judge will read a list of all the crimes detected, and sentencing will take them all into account, although how much the judge may care depends on the third.
Anderr: In his historic interview with the Central Computer, Occam mentioned the existence of so-called "stealth bots", tasked with apprehending wanted criminals. Do these bots really exist?
Poobah: well, i'll tellya. it's been some time since that interview, and in all that while, i've never encountered anything even remotely similar to a "stealth bot". perhaps that's what the "stealth" means, i dunno. but, i doubt the rumour, personally.
Anderr: Does CrimeNet recognize Groups of people as a single entity for crimes? That is, could I get on the wanted list if someone in my group decided to break a law?
Poobah: no, no, only the perp.
Anderr: Does CrimeNet protect animals as well as humans?
Poobah: as far as i know, yes it does. whether the authorities will care is another question.
Anderr: Ah, so, I might kill a fido in the NorthEast and not be arrested, but I would still be on the wanted list?
Poobah: i think you might in fact be arrested. but, which judge will you be taken to, and will that particular judge care? it's hard to imagine judges in the northeast worrying too much about whether a stray fido got killed. but, I dunno, maybe some judges will see that as a source of income. that's the thing; crimenet is one thing, judges are another.
Anderr: There seem to be some people in the city who do break this law, but don't get punished. I'm thinking of the pigeon and fido hunters, for example, who use violence in public places and seem to get off okay, but also the reported sightings of François Prelati, the famous malopath.
Poobah: pigeon and fido hunters have a special "arrangement" with northeast authorities. you'll note they only hunt in northeast, where they're protected by the powers that be. with prelati, same story on a different scale. he's rich, connected, and well looked-after.
Anderr: I see! How depressing. Getting back to your earlier comment, is it fair to say that CrimeNet just detects and reports the crime, and the severity of the sentence can depend on which judge happens to try you?
Poobah: indeed. see, the northeast judges are very... individual. sentencing in the northwest and south is consistent. there's a numerical formula, which the judges will actually recite during sentencing. in the northeast... not so much.
Anderr: That last comment sounds ominous.
Poobah: sentencing in northeast is very specific to the individual judge. some will sentence people to death for stealing. others, just a fine.
Anderr: Is there any kind of violence that is permissible in CrimeNet-monitored areas? For instance, violence against certain types of people or animals? I've heard people say, for example, that deathsuckers are fair game.
Poobah: self-defense is always acceptable. as for attacking, i'm not sure whether crimenet per se makes any distinction regarding targets of violence, theft, malopathy, etc. it just reports the event. it's designed to be agnostic regarding the culture and politics of the thirds. it's up to the thirds / courts / judges to decide on the seriousness. i do know that identity of victim makes a strong difference to some judges in northeast.
Anderr: Let's talk a bit more about sentencing. In her article on justice, Sophia's interviewee mentions that the judge checked for prior convictions when determining the sentence. Does the severity of prior crimes increase sentencing, or just number of priors, or both?
Poobah: in most cases, severity of past offenses does increase sentencing. but as i mentioned, in the northeast, severity of past offenses may or may not be an issue; every judge will handle things differently.
Anderr: And obviously the Thirds have different methods of punishment. The NorthWest has their PUNishment, the NorthEast has fines, imprisonment, and sometimes execution. Could you comment a bit on how they do things in the South?
Poobah: the thinking behind justice south is that criminals are unwell, and the malady can be cured. so instead of "sentencing" they have "treatment". how well does it work? seems to prevent crimes being repeated, anyway for some time. i hear reports of side effects, but, haven't seen them myself.
Anderr: Let me pose you a hypothetical: Suppose you'd stolen some fancy shoes at the Foot Pad in the South plaza and been detected stealing. If you could make it to Sanctuary Island without being arrested, which Third would you head to if you wanted to turn yourself in?
Poobah: i think you raise a key question. i'm trying to project myself into the mind of a master criminal, not just an ordinary amateur. i would think you'd want to strategize where to be arrested. non-violent crime, no prior arrests? if yes, maybe nw. PUNishment is irritating but leaves no scars. am i wealthy? do I have a syndicate or another network supporting me? maybe northeast, then. pay the gratuity, get out. do i have other means of support? maybe south, which costs nothing, but leaves me out of work for some while. i think there's likely a great difference in strategy - a very considerable difference - between non-affiliated criminals and members of the great crime organizations, who seem to me to be far more likely to want to face justice in ne.
Anderr: Suppose the charge was malopathy instead of theft; any thoughts on which judges would take the kindest view?
Poobah: my sense is that malopathy is considered very negative and dangerous in northwest. also among some judges in northeast. i'd expect the south to be less emotional about it.
Anderr: I'm not sure if that's necessarily a good thing!
Poobah: one other thing to consider. if somebody knows they're wanted, and they're in northwest or northeast, they might wanna ditch their expensive gear asap. it's gonna be confiscated there. if they're in the south, that's not a worry.
Anderr: I've heard of that. Apparently law-enforcers refer to a criminal stripping before being caught as "the Full Monty" - or maybe that's only on TV. On this same topic: In Sophia's article, her contributor mentions that the judge checked to see if the crime was committed locally when determining the sentence. All else equal, it might be better to be arrested non-locally, I take it?
Poobah: yes, i think that's a good point. but, how tough is it to get from one third to another while on the wanted list? a thief can maybe sneak. there are some very good, skilled cops out there searching for criminals on the list.
Anderr: Gotcha. So people are not likely to have too much choice in the matter!
Poobah: but here's a question about that. ever seen a cop on the subway? i don't remember any, myself.
Anderr: Can't recall ever seeing one, now that you mention it. My next question, and I swear I'm not making this up, is that I've heard accounts of criminals actually deliberately getting themselves caught and arrested. Why would someone do that?
Poobah: you know, there's something interesting about the prisons in northwest and northeast. as a law-abiding type, i feel some unease over this, but, reputedly, the prisons can be thought of as universities for criminals. seemingly, there are advanced criminal skills taught there, and advanced tattoos specially for criminals.
Anderr: I suppose if you were dedicated enough to your craft, that would make sense. So we've established that in order to commit crimes in a CrimeNet-monitored area, you need to make sure you aren't detected or you end up on the wanted list. How about areas not monitored by CrimeNet? Are they anything-goes?
Poobah: certain areas unprotected by crimenet are protected instead by the people who live there. there are some pretty fierce gangs in the capitoline and other slums. the students at tc university are well-organized for collective self-defense. members of the farmworkers' union and other unions in northwest are taught individual and group self-defense, and will react as a collective. the gurkhas have group solidarity. so, there are complexities beyond whether a particular neighborhood has crimenet monitors or not.
Anderr: Does that mean that an ordinary citizen should fear for their life when leaving the confines of the CrimeNet-monitored parts of the city?
Poobah: i think that law-abiding citizens and visitors should feel fairly safe from attack or theft or malopathy in public areas known to be monitored by crimenet. i think they can feel a certain security in areas such as the university which are known to have a collective commitment to security. but I think common sense should be used when exploring off-the-path.
Anderr: Supposing - purely hypothetically, of course - that you were a pickpocket or malopath just getting their start in the City, where would you head?
Poobah: side streets and alleyways in northeast, i suppose.
Anderr: Sounds like most criminals would be smart to stick to the more run-down parts of the city until they feel very confident in their skills.
Poobah: most crimes in the world are committed against the poor.
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