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By David Staba

This is the story of Chrissy and Kristy.

And three very stupid criminals.

Our tale begins with Chrissy, a twenty-something mother of three, leaving an East Side convenience store Tuesday evening after buying milk for her 18-month-old daughter.

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While walking to her car, she sees a young man emerging from it, then dashing down the street while clutching her purse, which contained some cash and Chrissy's cell phone.

"I was in a hurry, and left the car unlocked, because I was just running in to get one thing," she says. "I'd seen him walking in. He talked to me. He asked me, 'Hey, baby, do you have 75 cents?'"

Her husband called the police when she got home, but Chrissy never expected to get her phone back, or see the thief caught.

"I just wrote it off," Chrissy says. "I was like, 'Whatever. Lesson learned.'"

Up to this point, there's not too much noteworthy here. Dozens of losers too dumb or shiftless to do any actual work, or even get a job at City Hall, wander the streets of Niagara Falls daily, looking for unlocked cars and other avenues allowing them to take stuff that doesn't belong to them.

Then the real stupidity kicks in.

Kristy, not aware that her friend's cell phone had fallen into undeserving hands, tries calling Chrissy that night.

The master thief or an equally simple compatriot has adopted Chrissy's phone as his own, making a number of calls on it by this point. Seeing Kristy's number on caller ID, he mistakenly believes it to be one of the multitudes of young women whom he believes find creepy losers attractive, and calls the number back.

When he asks for "Jessica," the ever-alert Kristy, who by now knows of the robbery, almost tells him he has the wrong number. She looks at her own caller ID, though, and realizes the call is coming from the stolen phone. And starts stringing him along.

"I told Chrissy, 'We're getting your phone back,'" Kristy says.

"I figured, this guy is so stupid, we have to do something," says Chrissy.

The young women went to the police station on Hyde Park Boulevard and asked for help in getting the phone back.

"They were like, 'Let's go! Let's do this thing,'" Kristy says.

So she baits the would-be Romeo, who still thinks she's "Jessica," someone he apparently met wherever such cretins gather. He calls again. And again. And again.

"He just kept calling," Kristy says. "We were supposed to hook up, but I kept putting him off."

Finally, arrangements are made to "hook up" in the parking lot of the Pizza Hut at Niagara and Seventh streets on Thursday afternoon. Kristy waits in the driver's seat of an undercover police van, with three cops in the back and five more in the building.

A car pulls up at the appointed time, and her suitor swaggers up to the passenger side of the van, whatever brainpower he might possess bypassed by directions emanating from part of his body much closer to the ground. During their phone conversations, Kristy says she has let him think that there's significantly more on the afternoon's agenda than pizza and getting to know each other better.

"He definitely thought we were going to go somewhere and 'do something,'" Kristy says.

So imagine his surprise the moment he puts his hand on the passenger-side door handle, when he's swarmed by cops.

"I honestly thought he (messed) his pants," Kristy says.

The two geniuses who brought the cell-phone Don Juan to the rendezvous point don't fare much better, with one trying to eat the sizable amount of marijuana in his possession while running away, then fighting with the cops who catch him and interrupt his unplanned meal.

A quick records check by police reveals that both men, as well as a young woman who came along for the ride, have outstanding warrants, and all three are taken off to jail, where they remained at press time.

There are a few lessons here for aspiring thugs:

  1. Making your living by stealing stuff out of unlocked cars isn't nearly the turn-on you might think. You're not 50 Cent any of your other hip-hop heroes -- you're a parasite. And if you're going to go with "Hey, baby" as your opening line, come up with a better follow-up than "Do you have 75 cents?"
  2. If a woman you don't know dangles the possibility of sex to lure you somewhere, it's probably a trap. With a lengthy jail stint in the offing, our Casanova may well wind up getting some loving, but it won't be the sort he was planning on during the ride to Pizza Hut.
  3. If you do find yourself in possession of a cell phone that you don't pay for, at least sell it to someone even dumber than you.

As for our heroines, who asked their last names not be published for obvious reasons, they couldn't have had a much better time on a weekday afternoon.

"It was awesome," Kristy says. "I was having fun. I was ready to do it again."

Chrissy, who had to work during the sting itself, expressed gratitude to both her friend and the members of the Niagara Falls Police Department who took part.

"I'm just grateful," she says. "I'm totally in shock that the system actually worked. I didn't think I would ever get my phone back."

She says the principle of the incident matters much more to her than a cell phone.

"It was just the fact that somebody was in my stuff, and we got them. We got three people off the streets that needed to be off the streets."

The least suspenseful political "crisis" in recent memory came to its predictable conclusion last week in Buffalo, with Erie County Executive Joel Giambra and the county legislature getting what both sides wanted all along -- a sales-tax increase that would allow them to continue running things just about exactly as they please.

Yes, Giambra cried crocodile tears over the 400 jobs eliminated when legislators approved his "green" budget without actually reading the details of the deal. He did not, however, explain where those cuts would come, or whether the positions getting slashed are even occupied at present.

What was clear, however, was that the 20-plus members of either his family or that of his $81,000-a-year driver, Victor Getz, would remain on the county payroll, along with more than 100 other patronage employees.

In a move symbolic of Giambra's accomplishment-free tenure, he announced that Getz would no longer serve as his driver. Don't worry, though. He's slated for another county job, with sources indicating that post will be at Erie County Medical Center at an even higher salary.

By extending the deadline for approving a budget several times, Giambra and Erie County legislators got more face time than usual over the past couple weeks, with local media breathlessly reporting every non-event as if there were any chance whatsoever that Giambra's "red" budget might actually go into effect.

As he did when campaigning for County Executive as a visionary reformer, despite decades working as a key part of the City Hall machine that made Buffalo what it is today, Giambra played the Buffalo News and the city's broadcast media like a fiddle.

He, and the legislators mainly concerned with keeping their friends and political supporters in their cushy jobs, get to grab more taxpayer money while blaming Albany for their own incompetence and dishonesty.

Medicaid costs hurt every county in New York equally, but only Giambra threatened to shut down his county over them.

After the budget passed, he reiterated his "vow" not to seek a third term. Since he spurned members of his native party, the Democrats, when he switched teams to run against Dennis Gorski in 1999, and has now alienated the GOP supporters who thought he was anything more than a party-machine hack, he needn't have bothered.

David Staba is the sports editor of the Niagara Falls Reporter. He welcomes e-mail at dstaba13@aol.com.

Niagara Falls Reporter www.niagarafallsreporter.com Dec. 14 2004