trench coats, fedoras
by Earl "Ah, the good old days" Staggs
Back in the day, when Sam Spade, Philip Marlowe and Mike Shayne needed information to catch the bad guys, they wore trench coats, fedoras and used up a lot of shoe leather. They scoured the mean streets for clues, twisted the arms of snitches, romanced willowy blondes, bribed bartenders and hotel desk clerks, all in search of information that would lead them to the solution of a crime.
Not any more. Not if you watch mystery and crime shows on TV.
No longer do our heroes have to plead for warrants to examine phone records, wade through years of newspaper articles, get witnesses to spend hours going through mug books, or sweet-talk an old girlfriend at the Department of Motor Vehicles to trace a license plate number.
All it takes now is a few keystrokes.
Nearly every crime show has a computer wizard/master hacker equipped with a million dollars worth of equipment who can come up with any information on anyone in any corner of the globe in seconds.
Take “Criminal Minds” for instance. Approximately every five minutes, one of the profile team calls Garcia, their mistress of the microchip, and the conversation goes something like this:
“Hey, babycakes, I need a listing of all twenty-five-year-old redheaded women who spilled beer on their yellow dress while on a cruise ship in the Mediterranean in 1983.”
“Sure thing, sweet cheeks. Give me a second. Ah! Here it is. There were three of them and they all live within a mile of where you are right now.”
NCIS has two of them. Both McGee and Abby, with flying fingers, can key up any information from any data base on the planet. Need the criminal record or military history of a suspect? How about high school yearbook pictures, a listing of any call made or received on any cell phone, or every home address the suspect ever had.
You’ll find someone like them on all the popular crime shows these days.
Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating my examples a bit, and I don’t mean there’s anything wrong with any of it. I watch those shows and enjoy them. After all, with the technology available today, there’s no reason not to use it to catch the bad guys.
But somewhere inside me, I miss the trench coats, fedoras and hard-drinking, two-fisted gumshoes whose technology was as simple as a punch in the mouth or a slug from a .45.