Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Predicting (at) the Herald

A few days ago, the Herald ran a front page story about a new tool to stop bank robbers. The BNZ, it said, is installing devices that, when activated, would spray a UV-sensitive pigment over the culprit as they ran out the door, making the police's job as simple as shining a UV light (well, once they catch them). It wasn't what you would call an important story, but compared to what usually gets on the front page it was at least interesting in a nerdy kind of way.

But today there has been a development, and the story is all over the front page like so much UV-sensitive spray. It seems like, for once, the New Zealand Herald may have encouraged the commission of a crime!

The banks boost their defences against robberies ... and the criminals hit back.

On Friday, the Herald reported the BNZ's introduction of a device which marks robbers with a traceable spray as they flee.

On the same day, a robber walked into a BNZ branch in Glenfield carrying an umbrella.

It was raining, but the robber opened the umbrella fully only as he entered the bank.

Clearly, the robber read the Herald and, wanting to avoid the daubing that was to come his way, raised his umbrella at the point of impact. Did the Herald inadvertently tip him off?

The Herald reported BNZ's introduction of SelectaDNA spray units, which shoot a synthetic solution over robbers that can be traced to specific banks.

Detective Sergeant Craig McCormack said the man had "obviously gone all out to forensically avoid any contamination and disguise himself", and it was extremely coincidental the "brolly technique" was used the same day as the report.

Thus, once again, the Herald finds itself at the centre of events and, as they say, there's no such thing as bad publicity. At the very least, the robber has bought himself a copy of the Herald (unless he stole that too).

That is, unless you actually keep reading the article:
BNZ spokeswoman Dee Crooks doubted the man had read the report, saying it was not uncommon for bank robbers to hide under umbrellas.
Ah. In fact, if the robber did see last week's front page exclusive, then he would best use his prison time on basic reading comprehension.
BNZ is installing spray units at its doors to douse fleeing robbers in a "synthetic DNA solution" that glows blue under ultraviolet light.
The thinking here seems to be along these lines - either:
  • the bank activates the spray module when staff see a robber about to enter the premises, or
  • the sprayer runs constantly, coating everyone who enters the bank in a UV-sensitive ink that remains on their skin for over a week, so the robber will be covered in ink and all the police have to do is... oh.
Maybe he did read the paper on Friday, and maybe he didn't. There's no mention in today's story about whether he had the umbrella up when he left the bank with the money, which seems like an odd omission coming from someone who you would assume had read the original. The whole premise is that using an umbrella in a bank robbery is unprecedented, which the ironically-named Ms Crooks denies. The upshot is that the Herald gets to talk about its favourite subject: itself.


  1. so let's get this straight:

    the BNZ supply the Herald with information about a new anti-robbery technology with the full intention of disclosure and publication.

    a robber walks into a bank with an umbrella the very day it is published.

    the police go to the herald and say it is highly coincidental that a robber walked into a bank with an umbrella on the same day.

    and you say the report the herald carries on this is is all about itself, because a BNZ spokesman disagrees with the police.

    you're a bit of a twat really.

  2. How do we know that that person with the umbrella wasn't you?

  3. Anonymous: Clearly you work at the Herald (or the BNZ or Police) - not that that is a problem.

    It was a pretty questionable front page story in the first place - especially if it was just, as you suggest, a BNZ press release. Bringing it up again on the front page is asking for trouble, especially after the last time the Herald ran a 'bank robbery' story (the one in Dargaville).

    Linking the article and the robbery is completely speculative - that's what the officer was doing, speculating. In other news, isn't it weird that 911 is the US emergency number and the WTC was hit on 9/11? What a coincidence.

    "and you say the report the herald carries on this is is all about itself, because a BNZ spokesman disagrees with the police."

    I'm really not sure what the "because" is doing in that sentence, because that's certainly not the link I was making if you read my post.

  4. you clearly do not have the first idea, do you?

  5. You clearly have no idea how to write or coherently express your thoughts, do you?

  6. well he's in the right place then.

  7. Is it just me or has it gone a bit "your views" around here..?

    At least on YV they have the spine to leave their name.

  8. yeah, that's right, 'The'.

  9. Anonymous. You ruined my lunch today.

    Regardless of what you think of James' posts, they have up until a day ago, produced intelligent discussion and opinion in the comments section. You may not agree with the content, as I sometimes don't, but it always gives me something to think about.

    If you dislike it so much (which you clearly do), and if you lack the capacity to have an open mind (which you clearly do), and if you lack the intelligence to actually understand what James is talking about (WYCD), and if you have nothing better to do than be an cowardly poster on a blog you don't like covering topics you don't like (WYCD), then my guess is that you happily satisfy my idea of a socially inept loner with no job or education who sports an inferiority complex that is satisfied only by making anonymous posts that hint at some deeper level of understanding that you are not prepared to share with the rest of us.

    Either that, or you're just a dick.

    Actually I feel better now and even have the appetite to finish the last half of my sandwich- its chicken and basil pesto with lettuce and tomato- yum!

  10. Nice lunch. What were we talking about?

  11. We were talking about how the headline was quite clever.

  12. Wow, that anonymous really gives the rest of us in the anonymous community a bad name.

  13. Methinks APN are sending in their shock troops