Smith: Could we be nearing the end of common crime?

In the throes of an infuriating chain of events, a thought arose that eased my blood pressure down from the red line:

Perhaps we are witnessing the demise of crime as we’ve known it. Robberies, burglaries, car thefts, assaults, street-corner drug sales, vandalism - they’re as last-century as pay phones, music stores, face-to-face dating and printed want ads.

Crime is migrating, along with most every other aspect of human endeavor, to the Internet.

The phenomenon of cyber crime struck forcibly home when I watched a virtual-age thief boast on “60 Minutes” that anybody can make major money by sitting at a computer in his underwear and filing bogus IRS tax returns. And maybe a minute later, I found something sinister in my home computer.

Ever heard of CryptoLocker? For the first time in my life, I was the victim of a hijacking and a ransom demand.

I couldn’t open any of my many Word documents, nor most of my photographs. A notice announced that my computer was infected with a virus and if I wanted to have my access to documents and photos restored I must pay a $500 ransom. Days later, that jumped to a grand.

I took the computer to a repairman who said he cleaned up the virus but cannot restore access to my documents.

This ugly hold-up is being committed at keyboards in who knows where in the world. You have to wonder why, when robbery, extortion, bullying, stalking and myriad other offenses can be committed online, any 21st Century crook would ever leave the couch.

As a new-age victim, I’m ever more leery of what may steal into my life through the WiFi connection. Then again, it’s kind of nice knowing there soon may be no need to lock the car or the front door.


KNOW ROSELAND? Some of us may come to a clearer, deeper view of this disputed and dynamic neighborhood immediately southwest of Santa Rosa with the opening of an inventive Sonoma County Museum exhibition.

“Roseland: Stories from the Community” is an experiment that asked residents to contribute answers to a number of questions. Such as:

Who are your neighbors?

What issues affect you?

How did the Andy Lopez shooting galvanize your community?

The Roseland exhibition will be open through Jan. 11. The keynoter at a reception Thursday at the University of San Francisco on B Street is Vince Harper, who’s worked for decades with children and adults of greater Roseland.

A reception kicks off at 6 p.m. and Harper, of Community Action Partnership of Sonoma County, speaks at 7.


CASPAR INN, the rockin’ music spot between Mendocino and Fort Bragg, will get some lofty help to blow off the roof in tribute to James Preston.

The former drummer for Sons of Champlin was 64 when he died in July from melanoma. Preston and his music were especially revered on the Mendocino Coast; he and his wife, Kalena, lived the past 20 years at Little River.

“He was a pretty amazing man ... one of the best drummers around,” said Bobby Miller, a friend and the guy who hauls in the talent to the Caspar Inn.

An afternoon-into-night music fest there on Nov. 9 looks to draw a heady cast of musicians. Miller has commitments from the likes of bass player David Hayes, who was long with Van Morrison; Gene Parsons, from 1968 to ’72 one of The Byrds; guitarist Jeff Tamelier, a pillar of both Tower of Power and Starship; and former Santana bassist David Margen.

Others will join the bill between now and the 9th. One of the program’s special treats: Preston’s son, Maxwell, who’s 27, will sing a couple of tunes.

The music will play from about 2 to 10 p.m., and will be barbecue-accompanied. Organizers of the tribute show, a benefit for Preston’s family, hope folks will kick in at least $20 each at the door.

As his days shortened, Preston, who’d played also with Norton Buffalo, Moby Grape and Bobby McFerrin, didn’t complain but he did speak of his regret that he had so much still to do.

“He was in a good place,” Kalena said. “He was happy with his life. He was a dreamer.”

Chris Smith is at 521-5211 and

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