I'm coming for you, sonny.
The "you" is the young man who was photographed looting a truck at the Woodstock '99 music festival. He is wearing a light green sweater and yellow shorts and he is carrying a sealed box of something that was not his -- although it may be by now. Next to him is an idiotic-looking fellow wearing shorts and a Yankees T-shirt, with the number 12 across his chest. I want these guys arrested.
I want everyone else in the picture arrested also. They are mostly young men, but I can make out one girl, her bag slung over her shoulder, her hand gripping an item (a sleeping bag?). She seems to be reaching for some loot. Arrest her, too.
But the New York State Police tell me that aside from the seven persons caught at the scene of the Woodstock riot, none of the several hundred looters, arsonists and just plain thugs is going to get arrested. ATM machines were battered, one was taken, food vendors were ripped off and at least 12 refrigeration trucks were set afire.
"We have no way to look for them," Trooper James Simpson tells me. As for the many pictures of the many looters, they are next to worthless to the police. "I just hope the parents see it and they are real proud," Simpson says.
In truth, I did not expect otherwise. The difficulties of tracking down people from all over the country and then proving a case against them are, to say the least, daunting. A picture freezes time. It merely suggests. It cannot say, however, what happened before or afterward, whether the person pictured with the loot actually took it. Still, it is a start -- and I would start with it.
In one of the more idiotic statements of the millennium, a co-promoter of the event, Michael Lang, attributed the mayhem to a kind of revolutionary spirit: "I don't think it was an anti-Woodstock statement. I think it was an anti-Establishment statement."
The "Establishment" in this case was composed of food vendors and guys selling items such as T-shirts. It included some larger enterprises, but even they are not particularly notorious for exploiting people of color or leveling the rain forest. They were just people trying to make a buck in the very hot sun. The looters ought to try it someday.
Anyway, the economic justification given by some is just plain lame. If the Woodstockians thought the price of a hot dog was excessive ($5), they need not have bought one. If they thought $4 was too much to ask for a bottle of water, they are right. But these prices are in line with what's charged at standard rock concerts -- or, if you will, for a box of popcorn at your neighborhood kleptoplex.
Back around the time Rudolph Giuliani became mayor of New York, the NYPD instituted a "zero tolerance" approach to crime. No more would cops ignore petty crime, disturbances of the peace or, in the subways, fare-jumping. Chances are your fare-jumper was carrying a weapon. Even if he wasn't, the law was the law. Better to learn that about a misdemeanor than a felony. The crime rate, as we all know, has plummeted.
But Woodstock had what amounted to 100 percent tolerance. The looters seemed to think no one would even try to catch them. They had no shame -- looting as their pictures were taken. They had no respect for the hard work or the property of others. Maybe they had done something like this before. Maybe they live in a world where there are no consequences for such action. It is time there were some.
So I say go after them -- each and every one of them. Arrest the kid in the purple cap and the one in the tie-dyed shirt, his hand raised as if he's asking for even more loot. I want the guy with the box under his arm and the one wearing no shirt at all. Get the one on the truck with the turned-around cap; compel them all to rat on their friends and then force them to compensate the people they ripped off.
Take those pictures and put them on the Internet. If I were a Woodstock promoter, I would offer a reward for the names of the looters and I just might hire some bounty hunters to look for these kids. In short, I would make sure that each and every one of the looters understands that there are consequences for what they did. As for the kid in the green sweater, he's mine.
This column's for you, sonny.