Skip

Crowd sourced crime solving in SF
September 18, 2012 4:47 PM   Subscribe

Yesterday, a cello was stolen from the San Francisco conservatory. Today, the musician's dad is trying to use surveillance pics and a Reddit post to find the thieves. The Huffington Post has since picked up the photos as well. Will crowd-sourced crime solving work?
posted by kellybird (32 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
Too late. By now the instrument has been ground up into powder and put into boxes. It'll be on the store shelves by next week, sold to unsuspecting dessert lovers across America. That's right: Cello Instant Pudding.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:57 PM on September 18, 2012 [20 favorites]


This story has everything; a rare target, a sexy accomplice, surprisingly flattering surveillance pics, a likable victim, and a stunning daylight heist. My god, she's even smiling as she punches in the key code.
posted by 2bucksplus at 4:59 PM on September 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Zoom and enhance.
posted by zippy at 5:05 PM on September 18, 2012 [12 favorites]


Hasn't there been a rash of Cello thefts from universities recently?
posted by mrnutty at 5:09 PM on September 18, 2012


The reddit thread was delisted because it's against their TOS to post or seek personally identifiable information. It can only be accessed by a deep link.

But I am disappointed in what it says in the HP article. This isn't an expensive cello, they found similar models on eBay for $4000. I checked their link, even that isn't correct, they have a vintage '59 model that was offered for $3900 and failed to get a bid. This isn't a stolen Stradivarius.

Hasn't there been a rash of Cello thefts from universities recently?

Maybe you're thinking of Tubas and Sousaphones.
posted by charlie don't surf at 5:15 PM on September 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Will crowd-sourced crime solving

Like in the old South when they used to "crowd-source" it when they thought an African-American had done something wrong? I sure hope so!
posted by drjimmy11 at 5:57 PM on September 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Send the pictures to the police if they don't already have them. That's the end of your role as a private citizen.
posted by drjimmy11 at 5:58 PM on September 18, 2012


no, this is not like lynching.
posted by facetious at 6:01 PM on September 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


drjimmy11: "Send the pictures to the police if they don't already have them. That's the end of your role as a private citizen."

...if you don't care about what you lost, and are ok with never seeing it again, that is.
posted by danny the boy at 6:09 PM on September 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


I like the "Parker Posey?" bit, especially after her recent stairwell climbing on Louie.
posted by JauntyFedora at 6:13 PM on September 18, 2012


that is not expensive compared to what high quality cellos cost, but that is a pretty significant theft
posted by thelonius at 6:13 PM on September 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


People stealing stuff sucks, but how the hell is this any different than a xeroxed "Have You Seen This Man Who Stole A Handful of Lottery Tickets" flyer on a corner store window? Nothing novel about this, just a bigger crowd being sourced.

I might be too cynical.
posted by davebush at 6:33 PM on September 18, 2012


"Send the pictures to the police if they don't already have them. That's the end of your role as a private citizen.

No. Not at all. I work at a music store and I have absolutely recovered stolen goods for people on more than several occasions. The victims gave me clear information as to what was lost (serial number, models) and a police case number. When someone comes in to fence it I keep the perps around long enough with promises of a big check (that clarinet is worth well over a grand, I'd love to buy it from you!) for the police to show up.

As some one who has lost three amps, two keyboards, ands more guitars and basses than I am sure of (around 12, I think) it sure would be awesome if there were someone like me looking out for me.
posted by sourwookie at 6:34 PM on September 18, 2012 [17 favorites]


A cello that is worth less than 25K is a student instrument.
posted by spitbull at 7:36 PM on September 18, 2012


Note to self: why am I screwing around making furniture. Order some quarter-sawn sitka spruce first thing in the morning.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 7:42 PM on September 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


A cello that is worth less than 25K is a student instrument.

Yes. It was stolen from a Conservancy. $25K would pay for a nice car. Your point?
posted by Jimbob at 8:17 PM on September 18, 2012


The car website Jalopnik does stuff like this all the time ... Help the X-City police identify this car that ran over an old guy in a wheel chair.

It makes sense to me ... if it's an odd car, who better to ask for help ID-ing the thing then a bunch of car geeks.
posted by Relay at 8:36 PM on September 18, 2012


Fun fact: citizen's arrests are a real thing, too.
posted by Apocryphon at 8:37 PM on September 18, 2012


This isn't an expensive cello, they found similar models on eBay for $4000.

Who cares if it's not expensive as cellos go? $4000 is a lot of money.
posted by needs more cowbell at 8:51 PM on September 18, 2012 [6 favorites]


Yeah, this is looking more ridiculous. From the reddit OP:

These people are nonchalantly making-off with a full-size cello that was purchased when my son graduated from a smaller cello when he was 12. We've owned it for 11 years.

It's claimed to be a 1987 Karl Hofner Bubenruth cello. I poked around and found this forum post:

I purchased a Karl Hofner cello (Bubenruth 1993) for my wife.. With hardshell case, new strings and some minor adjustments the instrument was a little over $300.

This isn't even a student grade instrument. It's a beginner's grade instrument, a toy. This is NOT a four fucking thousand dollar cello.

I call bullshit. This is all a hoax. This is how I figure it went down:

Some guy bought his 12 year old kid a cello for like $200, told him it was worth thousands, so he'd take care of it. 11 years later, he's at a music conservatory where his teachers and fellow students laugh at at his piece of shit cello. Kid arranges some friends to steal the worthless cello so he can give his dad a sob story and dad will buy him a new one. Dad goes ballistic, starts a furor on teh internets, says it's an expensive cello, not realizing it's expensive to HIM but not to anyone who actually plays a real instrument. Dad never says what the cello is worth, but HuffPo blows up the story by finding a failed eBay listing for $3900 for a hopelessly overpriced but vintage 1959 Hofner cello, then announces the piece of shit 1987 cello is worth $4k. Now the kid, dad, the HuffPo, and redditors all have too much invested in the story to back down.

FFS buy your kid a new cello and stop bothering the SFPD and the whole world via the internet. All your kid really wanted was a decent cello.
posted by charlie don't surf at 9:30 PM on September 18, 2012


Later in that thread, someone comments "Hofner lends the name to two types of cellos. One is hand made in Germany, is of excellent quality and the buyer will pay very well for. I've seen a number of such instruments priced over $10,000 and worth every penny. " (And then goes on to describe some made in China.)
posted by needs more cowbell at 9:49 PM on September 18, 2012


Frankly, I find the "clever plan to get my dad to buy me a new cello" story to be less believable than people walking in to a school and stealing something. If you don't know much about music or instruments, stealing the largest portable instrument you can find - in a huge case - would probably seem like the best bet if you were looking to sell it for a pot of cash.

If I had played an instrument every day for 11 years, I sure as hell would be devastated to lose it, no matter what the ultimate quality and cost of it was. You learn your instrument over the years, and it's hard to adjust to a new one. Especially if playing the cello was providing me income while I was in music school, it would suck. Also, if he was using the cello for classes at a conservatory, it's rather unlikely that it should be characterized as a "toy," don't you think?
posted by gemmy at 9:49 PM on September 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


Metafilter: All your kid really wanted was a decent cello
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:17 PM on September 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


if it's an odd car, who better to ask for help ID-ing the thing then a bunch of car geeks.

It's more impressive than that - typically it's not that they're unusual or distinctive cars, but generic midrange sedans captured in obscure blurry/noisy/low-res CCTV grabs. At night.

You then get a bunch of comments saying "the quarter-light at the base of the A-pillar is definitely from a 3rd-gen Honda Odyssey, but I can't tell if the door mirror is unpainted black or the same dark colour as the car. The way It seems to be reflecting the street light makes me think the latter, so it must be an 2008 EX or EX-L."

Somebody somewhere is probably figuring out a way to gamify this stuff and create a crowd-sourced mechanical-turk crime-solving social network. But it will suck because of vintage Polaroid filters they apply to all the surveillance images.
posted by phl at 3:25 AM on September 19, 2012


nm cowbell: The Hofner Bubenruth line is the cheap, low end, beginner's line. Or I should say was, since that factory went out of business and the manufacture of the cheap line moved overseas. I checked this out pretty thoroughly, and am not totally ignorant here, I played cello for years, my teacher even let me play his Guarnieri once. The more I looked for Hofner Bubenruth models for sale, the cheaper they got, and those were all auctions that failed to sell even at $2000 or less, and these high end prices were vintage models back to the 1950s.

Also, if he was using the cello for classes at a conservatory, it's rather unlikely that it should be characterized as a "toy," don't you think?

I've seen people with astonishingly crappy instruments, even in college level music classes. Like me for example. Also the dad said that the cello is not this kid's primary instrument. It would be fairly typical for someone to have a cheaper secondary instrument and put all their money into their main instrument.
posted by charlie don't surf at 4:28 AM on September 19, 2012


I work at the Conservatory, and I just got an email that SFPD recovered the cello.
posted by Nimmie Amee at 10:30 AM on September 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


If I had played an instrument every day for 11 years, I sure as hell would be devastated to lose it, no matter what the ultimate quality and cost of it was.

Seconding this. Glen Hansard's guitar is probably completely worthless from a financial standpoint -- I mean, seriously, look at that hole -- but do you really think that after 20 years of busking and then making it into the big time and then getting used to it, he wouldn't try to move heaven and earth to get it back if it were stolen? And Peter Frampton's old guitar was probably just about trashed after going through a plane crash, but Frampton was still absolutely thrilled to get it back after 31 years of thinking it was gone forever.

Sometimes it isn't about the financial value.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:06 PM on September 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yep, they got it back.
So far, all we know is that it was returned anonymously last night to the War Memorial Opera House in San Francisco, a few blocks from the conservatory, during a performance. A security guard found it leaning up against a wall and took it to lost & found. The woman working at lost & found just happened to be watching the evening news and saw the story. She called the police and they picked it up. I got the call from Officer Danker this morning telling me to get my son and get over to the conservatory immediately. When I got there, Channel 2, KTVU, was waiting and the police had the cello in the trunk of a Crown Vic. The look on my son's face when they opened the trunk was worth more than the cello. Check out the news broadcast later today. The cops are still looking for the perps, so any additional leads should be forwarded to me or the police.
posted by inigo2 at 1:50 PM on September 19, 2012


Wow, two day turnaround on getting it back! I guess that is one of the benefits to being part of the Borg Collective aka the connected pan-internet community.

Not everyone's stolen cello makes the evening news... that said, I do wonder if 10 years from now there will be more of an established market for citizens as crime fighters. Like Dog the Bounty Hunter but more broadly defined. If people are willing to pay (sometimes big) rewards to get their stolen crap back, there is certainly a market for it.
posted by kellybird at 3:55 PM on September 19, 2012


Musician reunited with $10,000-cello stolen days before

OH FOR FUCKS SAKE. Yesterday it was worth $4000. Tomorrow it will be $20,000. Do not expect me to believe this guy carries around a $10k cello in that crappy soft case. You can buy a hard case for $129 at Amazon.com.

I guess his co-conspirators chickened out and ditched the cello where someone would find it. At least he got $10,000 worth of publicity out of the scam, even if he's still stuck with the $300 cello.
posted by charlie don't surf at 8:35 PM on September 19, 2012


Did Yo-Yo Ma beat you up, charlie?
posted by stavrogin at 9:13 PM on September 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


Yo mama.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 9:27 PM on September 19, 2012


« Older FILMography   |   XOXO, darlings Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post