“Batman” Takes To Robbin’ The Elderly

By Mark Esposito, Guest Blogger

IMAGE--BATMANHome exterminator, Michael Bakke, 62, (left) specializes in removing wayward bats from residences around his hometown of La Crosse Wisconsin. He calls the company “Wisconsin Bat Specialists.” Seems he also sidelines in stealing rare musical instruments from the elderly and the blind. Hired in early June to help a widow remove the pesky creatures, Bakke helped himself to a rare mandolin the homeowner had decided to auction. The theft occurred when the sightless homeowner asked Bakke’s wife to check to see if the mandolin was upstairs. When she did not immediately return, Bakke went upstairs explaining his wife had a language barrier and might be confused. Bakke was not at sixes and sevens in the least and spying the stringed instrument, he moved it to a side window. Telling the distraught elderly woman that he didn’t see it, he went about his work only to return later that night. Using his ladder, he went through the upstairs window to retrieve the melodic booty from its hiding place. Bakke tried to sell the piece — which he valued at about $5,000.00 — to a Texas auction house. He found out the item was actually worth about $225,000.00. Seems conscience got the better of the Batman and he turned himself into police saying he intended to sell the mandolin and give the proceeds to the senior citizen as a “surprise” to improve her living conditions. Seems not only comic book creators are adept at fiction.

It’s hard for me to imagine a more despicable crime that one against  elderly victims but it’s an all too often occurrence.  There is no national repository of  crime statistics involving the elderly and no national victimization survey specific to elder abuse, but there is widespread agreement among law enforcement that “fraud in general is dramatically underreported” by the elderly. Most elderly victims are either unaware of the crime or too embarrassed to report it fearing their independence might be compromised by well-meaning family or a court system all too quick to declare them unfit or incompetent to handle their own affairs.  I think crime against the elderly deserves a lot more study and a focused effort to prevent this abuse and then to catch perpetrators. It’s  both a debt of honor and an efficient use of law enforcement resources to protect this growing population of those most vulnerable to crime.

What do you think?

Source: WKBT-TV

~Mark Esposito, Guest Blogger

42 thoughts on ““Batman” Takes To Robbin’ The Elderly”

  1. “Robbin’ The Elderly” sounds like one of those doods that will show up when friggin feudalism evolves like Mike S is just sayin …

  2. Lacrosse is a classic, blue collar, Wi. city. This guys business is dead to the good citizens where Old Style beer originated.

  3. Darren makes a lot of sense. The man knew he had been caught. Think about it. The woman reported the guitar stolen. The only suspect she has is Bakke. The auction house knows Bakke tried to sell it to them. They offered him a down payment of $43,000. What else can he do but go to the police with hat in hand and confess. The only other option for him was to try to lie and make it worse.

    I suspect he has done this before with petty stuff, probably going to a local pawn shop. This item was worthy more than he thought, and so while he thought of his other crimes as victimless, his conscience bothered him on this one.

    Interesting is the local paper story. Apparently his family business has taken a big nosedive. The perpetrator’s son and daughter have posted comments on the local paper’s site, trying to do some damage control for their business.
    http://lacrossetribune.com/news/local/local-business-owner-steals-blind-customer-s-mandolin/article_ab25ff0e-0096-11e3-b831-0019bb2963f4.html

  4. Evidently, my two previous posts are in limbo. However, Slartibartfast, I think Arthur Dent and Ford Prefect, especially Ford, would see Holder as just giving lip-service. In a long line of lip-service not to be confused with lips making real words meaning real things, but just servicing with lips. Which should be done without lipstick as that might make the lips stick and then where would we be but stuck with government officials with stuck lips. If their lips were stuck they couldn’t tell us the truth as they see it whether they believe it to be true or believe it to be just what we want to hear and what they want us to believe. Stuck lips sink government ships.

    Next, Holder will give us a moment of Vogon poetry.

  5. Otteray Scribe,

    I’m only 59, but was raised by people, well, my grandparents and great-grandparents; my great-grandmother being the wisest person I’ve met bar none. Wisdom and knowledge not being the same things.

    I had already dismissed any organic brain disease, so I don’t consider it germane. Anymore than talking about someone 30 with brain disease, or any psychological impairment, and characterizing 30 year olds that way. It may be more prevalent, but again that doesn’t justify this broad sweep of patronizing.

    Tech-savvy, you mean like the 20 year olds or 30 year olds that believe anything they read on the Internet? Tech-savvy has to do with the use of technology, knowing a scam or discerning what is true isn’t that. The elderly may fall more for on-line scams, but what scams do younger people fall for?

    Geropsychology looks at how the elderly (we need a clear definition of elderly, as yours and mine may differ) are and the strategies to deal with the psychology. Does it question society’s part? Does it ask if you diminish someone, as you all are doing here, then maybe the psychology has an external source?

    I remember arguments regarding two groups in the latter part of the 20th Century. They were isolated, estranged, anxious, prone to depression, and all that was because of who they were. It wasn’t that society isolated them, diminished them, it was because of who they were. It’s not a perfect analogy, but I can’t help but see parallells. Atheists and gays.

    The elderly are predominately women, by the 2010 census it’s 65-74 “78”, 75-84 “65” and post 84 “41” (men as numerator). So increasingly with age you’re dealing with women, even more diminished by society than men, who deal with isolation better than women if only by experience and temperment.

    ” As a group, they have poorer eyesight, poorer hearing, and may be more trusting.” The blind have poorer eyesight, the deaf poorer hearing, and the gullible are always amongst us. The elderly have better eyesight than the blind, better hearing than the deaf, and may or not be more gullible, as you noted by “may be more trusting” but that is as likely sex as age.

    Give me the stats where they are fooled more than other group, again neglecting dementia or any other organic brain disease, and weighted by where the money is. An impossible task, I know, because the stats aren’t there, unless you can make a better search string than I. That would be great, disproving me would be great.

    Now, a complete non-sequitur because no one expects the Spanish Inquisition, my cynicism on this rises from a simple societal belief: men kill their children more often than women, men abuse their children more often than women. Societal beliefs are often wrong. I need stats, with methodology and raw numbers. It’s that damn Engineering mind set. I do not hold you to my needs. Just a link.

  6. Darren,

    Just to underscore my point, I found the following in this article:

    Though noting that the growth in the U.S. prison population has slowed in recent years, [Eric Holder] says, “Too many Americans go to too many prisons for far too long and for no good law enforcement reason.” Incarceration should be used “to punish, deter and rehabilitate, not merely to convict, warehouse and forget.”

  7. Darren,

    Don’t think that I’m naive enough to believe that just because I would behave in an honorable way, others would too. As I said, I think it is against society’s best interests to punish this lowlife (beyond, say, what pete9999 suggested). It costs money to put someone in jail, both to pay for their care and in lost economic productivity (even retired he buys food, clothing, and housing if he’s not in prison), and footing that bill is bad business for the nation, in my opinion. Personally, I’d give judges a certain number of beds in jail that they can fill and only allow them to sentence someone to prison time if they had the space with the only exceptions being murder, rape, or other violent crimes and crimes involving a firearm. Prison sentences should become much, much rarer in our country—we can’t afford to do otherwise and it’s in everyone’s best interest (besides people owning stock in for-profit prisons).

  8. Gene,

    Sure he will if I talk of divine prophesying. Just watch for it and then let me know what you think.

  9. Blouise,
    I am sure you have a zarf laying around somewhere. Some people might call it a candom.

  10. given that he could have destroyed the mandolin and faced no punishment at all once he discovered it was rare and not easy to sell. a little county jail time to think, a lot of community service and a few years probation, if this was his first offense.

  11. Blouise,

    I don’t think Tony will have a problem with predictions so long as they have a valid scientific basis and aren’t a Tarot reading. 😀

  12. Slarti,

    Stick around for certain. You never know when we’re going to need a bunch of fjords or other squiggly bits around here. Also, having as many science literate commentators as possible is a good thing considering the recent influx of some who seem to have pieced their science knowledge together by reading sugar packets at Denny’s while hitting themselves in the forehead with a croquet mallet. You’ll spot them soon enough.

  13. Slartibartfast.

    I know your heart is in the right place and I would like to think this man would have done the right thing and gave up any possibility of repeating his crime, but my experience has been 95% of the time when an offender is playing up the “I’m sorry” routine, it is because they are more “sorry they were caught” and they say words hoping they will be treated less harshly by the system not because they truly want to repent.

    I’ve heard the “I’ll never do it again” routine from just about every shoplifter or theif I had arrested. And later after they have been adjudicated on that charge, I hear or find out they are right back to doing it again. So unless it is a child where there is some actual hope, a man of this age: I don’t buy it. But then again it was not my job to judge this person, it was to go through the motions and process them like anyone else.

    Plus, you have to look at the disconnect a person has in the indifference. If a person is willing to steal from a vulnerable, elderly person: a person American society in general places as such where a fraud or attack on this person brings a lot of stigma and scorn to the alleged actor, a person that disregards this is even less likely to have a qualm about stealing from a big store like Wal-Mart or some other faceless enttity.

    I wouldn’t be at all surprised if a middle aged adult stole from an elderly person and went through the trouble to hide the instrument to be retrieved later, that this person is very likely to have engaged in theft in the past wether he / she was actually caught doing this might or might not be the case but the steps taken are indicative of this. Though it is not necessarily admissable in court.

    I know it is tempting for reasonable, and good people such as yourself Slartibartfast to project your honorable and good nature into the expectations of others who have done something wrong. That if by some odd reason if such a person made a mistake and that was enough to deter them from ever doing it again. But not everyone is like that, especially those who steal. We hope they will repent but often they do not. In fact, many take advantage of those who grant them these deferrences. Many times I have seen cases where I went to someone’s ranch or business where they caught someone ripping them off and the suspect played the “I’m sorry” routine. I could see it in the suspect’s eyes they were dealing out the sympathy card, claiming this was the first time they were caught and they would never do it again, and they hoodwinked the victim into not wanting to press charges, despite me knowing the criminal record of the suspect and that it was a smokescreen. And sure enough the suspect was back to doing it again.

    I also don’t believe it is fair to victims where they can be stolen from, assaulted, and victimized generally only to have to suffer seeing the suspect get a lighter sentence because they blabbed out “I’m sorry” Two words to escape full responsibility for the damage they caused the victim. Do those two words cure the wounds the victim will suffer? Not really for many. Some yes, but not all. I know there is something to be said about tempering justice by reason of a repentent suspect, but just barking out “I’m sorry” doesn’t change the fact that they victimized someone.

    You do have a point where you say it is good to have the ability for a person to come forward in exchange for the possibility of receiving a lighter treatment and that might spur a few more people to turn themselves in. I understand that and I have seen it work myself.

    Also in this case it is different from someone that maybe committed something minor and no big deal like speeding or maybe not registering their car before the expiration. I’ll accept “I’m sorry” from them even if it is BS or not. But a someone that steals from an elderly person something of great value. They can apologize until they are blue in the face and I won’t accept it. But admittedly I am biased so you can take my jabberwocky for what its worth. There are two things I cannot stand. Thieves and those who prey on the young, the vulnerable, and the elderly. This man is accused of being both. So, I’ve no sympathy for him.

  14. Slarti,

    Tex is afraid I’ll use dementia as an excuse for misplacing him.

    I do like the phrases mespo uses … there’s a world of meaning in “debt of honor” within the context he employs it.

    Speaking of Scrabble … I had to look up vatic and it didn’t mean what I thought it meant. Now I have to work it into a sentence on the blog. I think I’ll try it out on Tony C … if I work it just right he’ll start to lecture me on magical thinking.

  15. Blouise,

    I intend to stick around for a while—I find that when I don’t comment I still think about things and stuff and then I get grumpy ’cause no one knocks holes in my arguments or agrees with me. We’ll see how things play out…

    As for dementia, given the ass-kicking I’m currently enduring in Scrabble, I don’t think it’s come for you just yet… 😉

  16. I’m old and I have expensive musical instruments but they sure as he!! aren’t laying around the house as heat and humidity are the enemy.

    That being said … I am physically far more vulnerable … I can’t run away very fast anymore.and who knows, dementia could be just around the corner causing lots of my things to disappear. I’m fortunate in that my daughter lives 2 streets over and a grandchild lives up the street and all handyman personnel are vetted through them.

    But my situation is more the exception than the rule and I have several older friends who do worry about their safety so I rather like that “debt of honor” idea.

  17. I know the full story behind this as I am the son of the victim, and the one thing the article does not make clear is that my mother, after discovering the instrument to be missing, actually called Mr. Bakke to ask him again if he had not seen it — in effect tipping him off that he was now suspect #1.  It was only then that he came forward.

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