26 April 2020

More Stories From The Sacramento Police Mug Books 1860-1948

Most of the crimes committed by people in these mug books seem to be Petite Larceny, Grand Larceny, Burglary or Robbery.  These crimes might sound like the same thing, but there is a difference.

LARCENY or theft is to take someone else’s property without the owner’s consent and with the intention to permanently deprive the owner of its use or possession.  The difference between petite (petty) larceny and grand larceny is the value of the item(s) taken. 

ROBBERY is taking something from a person and using force, or the threat of force, to do it.

BURGLARY is often a crime that involves theft, you don’t necessarily have to take any property to be convicted of this crime. To commit a burglary you must enter a structure or dwelling with the intent to commit a crime within it. You can be convicted without actually committing a crime within the building, and the crime you intend to commit does not have to be theft or robbery.

Here is an example of petite larceny from 1899:  ED COLLINS

Once the police decided on a name for Ed (see photo for how many times they crossed out his name), he was charged with stealing paintbrushes, convicted and spent 90 days in the Sacramento County jail.

When I first looked at Frank Pederas' record from 1898 and saw that he was sent to Folsom Prison for 15 years for stealing chickens, I thought there must be more to his story.  That's a harsh punishment for being a chicken thief.

Of course there was more to his story.  Frank had been released nine months earlier from San Quentin Prison after serving two years for stealing horses in San Diego County.  To make matters worse, two weeks previously he had sliced open the cheek of the woman he was living with.  She refused to press charges and the matter was dropped.

Still, 15 years for stealing chickens?  Well turns out it was 5000 chickens he had taken and was caught when he was trying to sell them to local restaurants.

Then, from 1895,  we have the story of the "Little Firebug who Could" - George Bittner.  Apparently George's brother-in-law wanted to buy a restaurant from owners who did not want to sell.  So to help out, George started a fire at the restaurant to pressure the owners into selling.  He did this twelve times over a one week period!  The last fire he set he admitted that he went a little too far because the entire building burnt to the ground.  George spent two years at Folsom Prison for playing with fire.


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