CNN reported that police in the Bahamas arrested 19 year old Colton Harris-Moore, also known as the Barefoot Bandit, Sunday, after a boat chase off Harbour Island. The Barefoot Bandit, nicknamed for his penchant for breaking and entering while barefoot, has been on the run from U.S. authorities for two years since breaking out of a juvenile detention facility in Washington.
As the Barefoot Bandit made his way across the country where he was suspected of break-ins in Oregon, Nebraska, South Dakota as well as Washington, his notoriety grew and fans established Facebook pages reporting on his flight from authorities.
Is the Barefoot Bandit’s near cult status all in the name? Would law-abiding people follow his crime sprees if news reports called him merely a juvenile burglar or young thug?
On a given day, 93,000 juvenile offenders are in custody according to a one day count taken in February 2006 compiled by the Justice Department. As one of approximately 93,000 youths who have been incarcerated, why has the Barefoot Bandit alone developed a folkloric following? His reported crimes, breaking and entering, theft of an aircraft, threatened murder are hardly of mythic interest.
Okay, well maybe stealing an airplane qualifies as the kind of crime that attracts perverse admiration under the circumstances. Barefoot Bandit it is said learned to fly by playing video games and then stole a plane as a getaway vehicle, successfully piloting it to the Bahamas. But the troubled teen criminal’s cult following preceded the theft of the Cessna 400 Corvalis.
Maybe if Barefoot Bandit’s nickname had been less whimsical, he’d have amassed not a cult following but a public persona consistent with his criminal conduct.
The thief Alvin Karpis was nicknamed Creepy. Did he attact a Facebook crowd? No way.
Or what of mafia safecracker Charlie Reiser- the nickname “the ox” didn’t seem to endear him to the American public.
Most criminal nicknames aren’t very attractive in fact.
Big Ears Du?
How about Hop Toad, Fat Man, or Squeaky?
With the Barefoot Bandit back in custody, police and media sources might want to think twice before giving the next escaped criminal a catchy nickname.
Sources: http://www.cnn.com/2010/CRIME/07/11/bahamas.barefoot.bandit/index.html; http://www.facebook.com/pages/Barefoot-Bandits/166817508264; http://www.facebook.com/pages/Colton-Harris-Moore-The-Barefoot-Bandit/334761154065; http://ojjdp.ncjrs.gov/ojstatbb/corrections/qa08201.asp?qaDate=2006; http://www.factacular.com/subjects/Criminal_Nicknames;