Monday, August 12, 2013

Heads-up to the festival community, thieves are working the circuit; here is one of their scams

  1. The Festival

  2. The Setting

  3. The Scam

  4. The Outcome

  5. How to Protect Yourself

I. The Festival

I was lucky enough to win tickets through ION Magazine to attend Bass Coast, an international electronic arts music festival that’s been held in British Columbia, Canada since 2009. My many thanks to Ion Magazine for partnering with Bass Coast to give away tickets and to the organizers for putting together this amazing event, I will definitely be attending again. For those interested, the following video featuring some of the musicians and artists that have attended the festival is a great introduction to what awaits you.

Unfortunately, no matter how amazing an event turns out to be, there are always bad elements present. The best festivals are ones that promote a sense of culture and community, it’s the best way to ensure safety and security, a central theme for Bass Coast. Even with the amazing vibe of this gathering, some minor predators ended up filtering through. Below you will find the scam that we caught them preforming.

II. The Setting

It has been my experience that imagination enhancers are more prevalent at electronic music festivals as opposed to other gatherings. To my delight, Bass Coast was no exception.

At these events, much like all other music festivals, the dance floor is where the energy is concentrated and where attendees can let loose and dance to their hearts content, letting the music take control, pounding the ground, losing themselves in the beats and the fluidity of the crowd. This is where we found our thieves hard at work applying their trade.

I’m not sure if it’s a testament to the brilliance of the sound we were exposed to or the sense of camaraderie present at the festival that made the thieves believe that they could get away with their scam unscathed. Maybe they were just taking advantage of the goodwill, a one off event, noobs falsely believing that a self-induced shift in perception of their targets would be sufficient to allow them to get away with their crime. Either way, here is what they did.

III. The Scam

The scam occurred at night and there were at least two thieves involved. Thief #1 (assumed) would walk around the dance floor and position himself beside a pile of bags and purses - note: at festivals where there is camping, most people carry their valuables with them, which means that when they feel like dancing they drop their belongings on the ground, usually in a pile with others. This gives them the freedom to let loose without having to carry a heavy burden. Thief #1 would then pull out a small handheld laser with kaleidoscope and shine it into the crowd. The laser would be pointed towards the group that the bags and purses belonged to. In general no one would be the wiser since one of the main features of electronic shows is the visuals.

The laser pointer had a dual purpose. First, it provided pretty patterns for those under the influence to zone out on. Second, it blinded those looking at the pile of bags and purses, allowing thief #2 to enter the scene. Thief #1 stayed stationary for a few minutes, making sure that everyone in the vicinity was comfortable and use to his presence as well as that of the pretty patterns he was projecting. Once everyone was at ease with the newly introduced element, thief #2 would enter the scene and ransack the pile.

Brilliant little scam. I say brilliant because we caught them doing this at around 3 a.m. on the third night of a three day festival, which means that they had probably gotten away with what they were doing for the previous two nights – when I talked to security they confirmed that there had been a lot of thefts reported in the previous 24 hours.

IV. The Outcome

I won’t bother telling you what took place after that, suffice it to say, we took them to security, police arrived, thief #2 was only arrested for being drunk in public which I can assure you he was not. Thief #1 was allowed to leave since there was no proof that he was connected to a crime.

They were both straight and very focused on their task. They were good at what they did and knew that the consequences of being caught would be minimal, at this gathering anyway since non-violence is a prevalent theme with this community. I doubt very much that they would have been lucky enough to be able to walk away from their crime at other types gatherings, and rightfully so.

They both had their wristbands, i.e. tickets, which means they had done the math and figured it was worth paying approximately $250 a pop, $500 total, to buy entry into the festival and begin their work. I’m also assuming that this was not their first festival this year and that they had gotten away with it until now. Unfortunately, the odds are that they had flimflammed other festival goers in previous years as well.

V. How to Protect Yourself

Just some suggestions to protect yourself and your community:
  • Next time you see someone on the dance floor making pretty little patterns with a laser pointer, keep an eye out for their partner.

  • Pass on the word and make sure your friends are aware of this scam.

  • If you see someone ransacking a pile of purses and bags, check with the people dancing in the vicinity to make sure that they belong to them.

  • Travel light and leave your valuables at home.

  • I hate to be the one to point this out, but do not be a victim, always keep one foot in reality. The world is full of bad people; protect yourself by not disassociating too far from reality in large gatherings, i.e., don’t get too wasted.

  • When possible, be accompanied by friends.

  • Even if you don’t know someone, keep an eye out for them. Maybe someday your good deeds will be rewarded and others will protect you when you are in need.

  • Keep an eye on your belongings.

  • If you drove to the festival, lock your valuables in the car.

  • Make friends at festivals and enjoy yourself. The more of a community vibe that is created, the lesser the odds are that predators will try their luck at making a score.

  • Ps. If you want to know what an electronic music festival is like you might enjoy some videos I put together in 2007 and 2008 from Soundwave, another West Coast electronic music festival that unfortunately is no longer being held. Videos can be found at Soundwave 2007 and Soundwave 2008. If you’d like a sample, below you’ll find three of the sets from 2008: Daega Sound, Thugfucker , and Junction SM . Hope you enjoy. Peace, chycho.

    Soundwave 2008: Sunday Afternoon (Daega Sound)

    Soundwave 2008: Monday Morning (Thugfucker)

    Soundwave 2008: Junction SM (Dandy Jack & Sonja Moonear)


    1. LOL your retarded. The guy with the laser pointer was my friend and he was legitimately just playing with a laser. The guy that was robbing you was some douche that we dont know. But it was pretty funny when he got detained.

      1. Actually, it wasn't funny.

        I added "assumed" to when I first mentioned "Thief #1", either way though, if this is the same incident your friend was in and what you say is true, then he was in the wrong place at the wrong time totally oblivious to someone right beside him ransacking a pile of bags that definitely didn't belong to Thief #2.

        As for your comment: "LOL your retarded."... ahhhh okay... guess that's your way of being sincere.

    2. A friend of mine was detained by police at Basscoast just for using a laser. He was in no way a part of an organized criminal scheme. It wasnt even his laser pointer, it was borrowed from another friend. I think it is really unfair to villianize people with laser pointers and I think it is pretty shitty that you are writing this entire article(which is now being spread around the festival community) based on the assumption that "thief #1" was part of the scheme. You should be ashamed of yourselves for not only ruining my friends night but spreading around your fears and assumptions as facts. Do you think it was fair for my friend to be detained for hours by police on the final night of the festival for the simple act of playing with a laser. You obviously support people indulging at festivals, do you think perhaps your party favours were giving you a little bit of paranoia?

      1. It doesn't sound like your friend was one of the people that we handed over to security. They already let the guy with the laser pointer (thief #1) go before the police arrived, so he was not "detained for hours by police".

        As for the second person, thief #2, we caught him with his hands in my friends purse ransacking it. He was a thief, everyone figured that out when they saw what he was doing, so no, this post is not about villainizing people, it's about letting the festival community know about a scam.

        As for why the police might have detained your friend, maybe because a lot of thefts were reported the last day of the event, including a major art piece. Maybe the police became aware of what some of the scams were.

        I'm sorry that your friend was detained and his Basscoast experience wasn't pure bliss but theft at festivals is real and the more we know the better we can protect ourselves. I also had to deal with security, police, and my illusion of the world not having bad people in it shattered for a few hours, but that is life.

    3. This article is way too presumptuous.. Too many innocent people play with lasers, and should not be subjected to scrutiny based upon one persons poor decision. Weather they did use a laser or not.

      Playing with toys does not mean they are part of a festival-hopping organized theft crime ring lol. Word of advice, at ANY festival, I keep my most important things on person ALWAYS. There are small enough purses/sacks/belts/backpacks that have enough space to keep money and ID. :) Happy camping!

      1. Hi Megan,

        Totally agree that you should keep your valuables on you at all times.

        As for lasers, for sure, this was just one incident, that said though, personally, whenever I see a laser from now-on on a dance floor, I'm going to be keeping a watch - I know my friends and those around us will also be doing the same... we're sort of tainted now.

        One other thing I would like to mention about lasers, which I didn't talk about in the post since I didn't want to deviate too far from the topic. It really sucks having lasers pointed towards you, which is what this person was doing. It hurts the eyes. So yes, lasers are fun, but unfortunately there are a lot of inconsiderate people out there.