by David Sisler

It was a looter's dream come true: the armored truck collided with another car, skidded, and flipped over. The impact was so great that seven locks on the doors broke, opening the doors to the cash and trapping the guards inside.

Police searched in vain through a West Oakland, California neighborhood for thousands of dollars stolen in broad daylight. Women stuffed cash into their purses and calmly walked away. Motorists threw heavy canvas bags into their backseats and drove off.

"People of all ages did what they knew they were not supposed to do," The San Francisco Chronicle reported.

"The dollar bills were flying through the air," said a bystander. "People went berserk. They saw the money, and they just went berserk."

So far, almost none of the missing money has been returned.

"It's a very poor neighborhood, and a lot of people need money," said one witness. "You think about it, that's what the world is all about nowadays. . . . If you're getting ready to get evicted, money would solve that."

Another man justified the thievery saying, "We've already got nothing, so when you see something come along, you want it."

Dan Connolly, president of Armed Courier Service, said his company would grant amnesty to any of the thieves who voluntarily return the bags of money to the police.

If recent events are any indication, police and the armored car company are going to wait a long time for anyone to return the money.

In January, Miami police offered a 48-hour amnesty in hopes of retrieving $550,000 that was stolen when a Brink's armored car crashed on an overpass and rained its load on an poverty- stricken neighborhood. Two people came forward, a mother of six, and an 11-year-old pupil at a Catholic school. The total returned was $20.38.

In 1992, $311,000 fell out of an armored truck on the Long Island Expressway in New York City. Afternoon rush-hour traffic screeched to a halt as motorists scooped up the bills. Police recovered only $3,500.

"We were disappointed," Connolly said of the looting. "We expected people would be more willing to help than engage in taking the money." Only two women tried to help the guards, while at least two dozen people, according to witnesses, helped themselves to the money.

These actions may cause the designers of an unusual psychological study to rethink their research. Almost two decades ago psychologists tested a representative segment of the population on the subject of basic human honesty. That study revealed that one person in three is basically honest, one person is basically dishonest, and one is as honest as the system. Their conclusion was, in the darkness, two out of three people will steal.

The California armored truck, the Florida armored truck, and the New York armored truck were all looted in broad daylight.

A law enforcement officer for the Florida Keys was discussing smuggling. Miami and South Florida are the smuggling capital of the United States for marijuana and cocaine.

"It is not a new situation," the officer observed. "In certain families there is a tradition of smuggling. In years past, they smuggled people, then liquor, now they smuggle dope."

The smugglers do not really mind losing a planeload of narcotics because four out of five flights get through undetected, the officer said. The profit from the sale of contraband on one plane is enough to buy a new plane!

I wonder what the Old Testament Prophet Isaiah would think if he were writing today. Centuries ago he said, "Woe to those who go to great depths to hide their plans from the Lord, who do their work in darkness and think, ‘Who sees us? Who will know?'"

The darkness no longer hides out base nature. We now do in public what we were once embarrassed to talk about in private.

Whatever he would think of today, Isaiah depicted us with 100 percent accuracy when he wrote, "The look on their faces testifies against them; they parade their sin like Sodom; they do not hide it. Woe to them! They have brought disaster upon themselves."

The president of Armored Courier Service offered amnesty to anyone who returned the money, but he set a time limit — by midnight the day of the theft. It is good to be offered amnesty because amnesty means more than forgiveness, it means forgetting that the event ever happened and conducting business from that point on as though it had never happened. That is what God offers each of us through his Son, Jesus of Nazareth. That amnesty, too, will expire — when your heart stops beating.


Published in the Augusta Chronicle 5/31/97

Copyright 1997 by David Sisler. All Rights Reserved.

Your comment is welcome. Write to me at:

Back to David Sisler's Home Page