Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Crime 101 - Fences - Part 1

There are many stories out there about thieves. Honestly, thieves are probably one of the largest, and most diverse, group of criminals in the world, as well as being one of the oldest professions. As long as things exist, people will want them, and as long as we use some sort of commerce system to exchange goods, people will want to acquire things at discount rates. This accounts for the many varieties of theft that exist, everyone from a professional shop lifter, to cat burglars, to the guy who drives a truck load of cell phones to the wrong warehouse. However, no matter how the goods were stolen, they all tend to congregate in the same places. For thieves, that place begins with a Fence.

Fences and Thieves
It's very rare for a thief to be able to turn around and sell whatever it is they've stolen. For one thing, it is possession, and sale, of stolen property. This means that if the cops stop by, not only do they have you, but you're going to match up all that evidence you left - and some is always left - when you stole the goods in the first place. For another, the business of selling stuff is a full time job in and of itself; you need space to store the items, space to sell them from, and you need to know the people who will buy the hot items that you have stolen.

Because of all this, Fences and Thieves are almost always different jobs. I say almost always, as some crews of thieves have a fence in their crew specifically for that. Almost everyone else though, goes to a dedicated fence. It just keeps things easier, and gives the thieves a quick way to get paid for the stuff they've stolen.

Services Received
This is the obvious one, but what a fence gets out of the thief - and why their relationship exists at all - is a discount supply of products that are in demand. A thief who has stolen a shipment of cellphones can't just turn around and sell them, but the fence can. Plus, since the thief can't sell them at the normal retail price, the fence gets the choice of either passing along savings to move the product quickly, or selling at normal retail price and making more cash.

Now, thieves can do other things for fences, but this is their primary job.

Services Provided
Fences do a lot more for thieves than just take the hot merchandise off the thieves hands. Many fences will also provide a number of other services. They will give the thieves work, actually telling them what to get - and where they may be able to get it. They can also provide security, giving alibis or paying legal fees. The primary service though, is as said above, the buying of hot merchandise for re-sale, and for this part we'll be focusing on that primarily.

Controlling Thieves
Now, this is the part that takes some people by surprise, and can be hard to get your head around. In the relationship between thieves and fences, it is the fence that has the control, not the thief. The reasons for this are many, but the primary reason for it is this: the thief needs the money from the fence more than the fence needs the hot merchandise from the thief.

That one, simple little fact is important to remember when dealing with fences. In any deal, the Fence can just say "I don't need that", at which point the thief is left there with a shipment of hot goods that he has to find a way to get rid of. There are only so many fences in any given city as well, and not all of them want the same things.

So Much More
Now, there is more - a lot more - to how fences work. Especially in regards to thieves and that relationship, but for now I wanted to start small with them. Get the basics down, and make sure people had that first primary fact down. On Thursday we're going to talk about ways you can sue this in your own games, just with what we have here, and on Tuesday I'm going to go back into the world of fences to show some of the juicier bits of hot it all works.

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