Tuesday, July 13, 2010

13 JUL 10: Gummm-Ga-Gum Gum

If you're a "true crime" buff looking for a successor to the "Barefoot Bandit" case in the Bahamas, we have one right now in Columbus. It's a wave of business break-ins, with someone intent on stealing one particular item. I'd say the item is a jaw dropper - but it really has more in common with jawbreakers.

We told you last Friday about someone stealing a giant gumball machine from Cici's Pizza in Midtown. Now Columbus police say more than 30 businesses have been burglarized in recent days - and in most of the cases, the burglar has taken gumball machines. How big a children's birthday party is this suspect planning?

WTVM visited the Serving Spoon restaurant on Buena Vista Road -- which had gumball machines taken last week not once, but twice. You'd think the manager would have used some of that gum, to make sure the second machine stuck to the floor.

(I sincerely hope this restaurant was NOT hit twice because it had Double Bubble in the machines....)

Columbus Police released surveillance video of the "gumball bandit," breaking down the door of the Lewis-Jones supermarket on 13th Street Saturday morning. Apparently that store has no gumball machine, so he stole cigarettes -- as if he couldn't find the aisle with Nicorettes.

The question on many minds undoubtedly is "why?" What's the point of stealing gumball machines -- unless perhaps this man is a crusading dentist, who wants businesses to sell fresh fruit at the checkout stand?

Many gumball machines are relatively inexpensive. Some sell for less than 20 dollars - but the largest ones can be worth more than $2,000. At that price, businesses probably order "gourmet gumballs" to go with them. That means flavors such as peach and watermelon - but sadly, none with filet mignon.

Police suspect the real motive for stealing a gumball machine is the change inside. A mid-sized machine can hold $800 worth of quarters. So our bandit might give himself away, by attempting to open a laundromat.

Officers believe the "gumball bandit" is acting alone. They have yet to make an arrest. But the high-quality surveillance video certainly will give police.... well, you know.... something to chew on.

In the meantime, Columbus residents should be on the lookout for this suspect. And be very wary if a stranger comes up to you claiming his name is Bazooka Joe.

On a more personal note, your blogger discovered Monday he was a crime victim of sorts. Someone figured out one of my credit card numbers and made two purchases in recent days. Eleven dollars to an environmental group is one thing -- but when you want me to pay 844 dollars for your new Dell computer, that's a bit much.

My latest credit card statement thankfully had a phone number for the charity. A woman at that number told me there's been a cluster of similar fraud cases in Georgia recently. The small charitable charge is a test, before the big buy is made. After all, why donate money to an environmental group when BP promises to clean up everything?

As it happens, the credit card number that was swiped hacked is connected with British Petroleum. I've used it for years to earn rebate money, which turns into free BP gas. So I haven't been too offended by that gusher in the Gulf of Mexico - since I make sure they pay for my gasoline, as well as all oil on the beaches.

The BP card which was hacked now is canceled, thanks to the card company's fraud unit. I cut the card into three pieces -- and intentionally dropped one of those pieces in a trash can a long way from my home. So two different teams of prison inmates handling garbage might be left frustrated.

In keeping with our custom, we will NOT discuss the Alabama primary runoff on this voting day. Instead we'll explore other news items - such as Georgia politics....

+ Governor Sonny Perdue named William Rumer to the District Judge position once held by Robert Johnston. If you were one of the people who told friends months ago "Rumer has it," you were right.

+ Former Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin endorsed Karen Handel for Georgia Governor. So next Tuesday's Republican primary isn't simply between "elephants" anymore -- it may be a choice between a "Mama Grizzly" and an Ox.

+ The Georgia Department of Revenue reported tax collections were up in June, compared with last year. But the fiscal year ends with state revenues down for the third year in a row. NOW do you feel guilty about not donating money to the state general fund on your tax return?

+ Muscogee County Schools announced fixtures from the old Carver High School are up for auction online. So the students who left graffiti on the walls in May might get to keep it - assuming they repented of spraying graffiti, and gained respectable summer jobs.

+ The Lee County School Board considered a proposal requiring drug tests of all students involved in extracurricular activities. We certainly don't want glee club members making that "L" sign because they have liquor in their lockers.

+ The national Young Men's Christian Association announced from now on, it will call itself simply "The Y." Do you realize what this means for Columbus? The A.J. McClung branch now can be called the A-J-Y. And the D.A. Turner branch can offer a "D-A-Y camp" every summer.

+ A Thomaston minister sued Upson County, demanding the right to carry a gun in his church. That's strange - Pastor Dennis Lacy of North Highland Church uses a bow and arrow in a TV commercial, and looks pretty effective with it.

+ Instant Message to attorney Stacey Jackson: Talk about a bad Monday! First the Georgia Supreme Court rules against you. Then the Governor chooses someone else for District Judge. But look on the bright side -- you have all those clients inside the Columbus Parks Department, paying you by the hour.

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