Connect Four to Colton Harris-Moore

Connect Four

KIRO TV is reporting that a Seattle-based recovery agent has offered to bring Colton Harris-Moore in for free: Evidently there is an informational meeting about this proposal on June 1st on Camano Island:

Some are calling this vigilantism and the Island County Sheriff just publicly said he can’t endorse private reward or recovery efforts. But if this recovery effort can be done legally—something the recovery agent will hopefully explain in that meeting– I can see why it’s attractive to area residents. Surely some people are wondering how many more years Harris-Moore will be free to commit crimes—he’s been on his crime spree for more than two rides around the sun already.

The community organization effort has to start somewhere. Even if residents decide they don’t want to go the recovery agent route, or it interferes with the official investigation, at least this is bringing people together and getting them talking. I maintain that the key to bringing Harris-Moore to justice is networking and communication. There has to be a partnership and open dialogue between the people and the police agencies involved.

The citizens’ efforts and police efforts shouldn’t be considered two separate things. They both want the same thing; they can help each other achieve that goal. Knowing what a budget crunch the involved counties are facing, and how limited law enforcement resources on the islands may be, citizens want to know how they can be actively involved. They may want to help more, and they may want their public servants to listen more.

People are likely to get frustrated and do careless things if the police don’t treat them as partners at this point. It’s too late for a “relax and let the police handle it” mentality. This whole situation may wind up like the final scene in the movie “Road House” if creative solutions aren’t found to channel the public’s frustration. People can get hurt or killed in that scenario.

I commend the Sheriff’s Office for the community meetings that have been held, and think that’s what people would like to see more of. There are those wondering what new tactics are being tried, or how involved the FBI is in this case. There are questions about whether technology like thermal imaging is being utilized, and how open the law enforcement agencies involved are to outside consultants. People want assurances that everything that can be done is being done.

Having recently completed a thorough review of a particular serial killer case for school, I was puzzled by why the administrations of the law enforcement agencies in that case didn’t communicate with the public more. It seemed that the case would have been solved sooner if they had. I know that investigators have to keep certain details quiet, especially when the suspect reads the news.

But community relations and the media can also be used to law enforcement’s advantage. Although the Sheriff’s Office can’t endorse it, I keep saying that a publicized reward fund might convince some of Harris-Moore’s “friends” that they’d rather have riches than risk (the risk of letting him crash at their houses). A more public statement on what’s going to happen to his accomplices might convince some of them to cease their support now. A centralized web portal to collect information or a dedicated web page might attract more input from the public.

In this case, the criminal at large may be intelligent, but the communities he’s victimized are exponentially more intelligent. Why? Because when what people know individually is considered collectively by law enforcement, it will be enough to catch this fugitive. The dots already exist, they just need to be connected.

I also think that the spotlight needs to be shined on the mainland since Harris-Moore is rumored to run back there when he’s not pilfering the islands. I still believe that the Snohomish and Skagit County Sheriff’s Offices may have more power to bring him in than Island and San Juan Counties if that’s where his support network is. Catching him is going to be a cooperative effort between relevant agencies and the people who live in those areas.

Harris-Moore may be unpredictable to the extent that we don’t know where he’ll turn up next. But he’s very predictable in other ways. He’s not nearly as smart as he likes to think he is. We know the general area where he spends most of his time. We know what he likes, the shiny objects he’s attracted to. We know he has Internet access, reads the news, probably checks his fan base membership numbers on Facebook, and listens to shows like KOMO’s Commentators (according to his mother).

What we do know can be capitalized on to bait him and catch him. This is why I hope that law enforcement is making full use of geographic profiling. While geographic profiling is more commonly used in serial murder and rape cases, it could have some value here.

Maybe this is a no brainer and the local and federal authorities are all over this. It’s the modern day version of sticking colored pins in a wall map to gain a visual perspective on a crime spree. Geographic profiling uses layers and colors to show where a criminal’s hot spots are—the areas they frequent, potential targets, and even where they live. Having a 3D perspective on a criminal’s activities brings patterns and crimes previously thought to be unrelated to light. Geographic profiling is like using black light to see evidence invisible to the naked eye.

It would also be interesting to know to what extent law enforcement is using criminal profiling. Unlike some fictional TV shows on profiling that I really enjoy, real life profiling isn’t always successful or even useful. There are times that bringing in minds who think like a particular criminal are useful though. There are profilers and forensic psychologists who may know how Harris-Moore thinks better than he does. Sometimes it’s uncomfortable for a law enforcement agency to bring in outsiders like this as it may seem to be an admission of helplessness, but it’s the opposite. It’s bringing in experts to supplement what they’re already doing.

Interestingly, if this were happening in a more metropolitan area like Seattle, the case would be getting much more help and publicity. News reporters in color-coordinated parkas would be giving sensational live updates from various crime scenes and I do believe that the world would be more sympathetic.

Having browsed the blogs on this topic, there seems to be some odd stereotypes about island residents, that they are all rich, have waterfront homes, and own airplanes. Even if they were, these crimes are just as wrong.

Reality is that the islands are home to many working class people with children, elderly people who have retired there, and other regular people who don’t deserve to have a sociopath feeding off of them. Some unsympathetic “fans” believe island residents shouldn’t complain about their victimization because Harris-Moore is sticking it to the “man”, according to one commenter on the Barefoot Bandit blog. Like I’ve said before, it wouldn’t be funny if it happened to them.

In the Star Wars movies there is a race of creatures called the Kaminoans who live on the stormy ocean planet of Kamino. You’ll remember them as tall, long-necked creatures that possessed cloning technology. You may also remember that all of the clones trained as Storm Troopers were carbon copies of Jango Fett, who raised a clone as his son, Boba Fett. Hmm. Kamino. Boba Fett. I can’t help but think that certain islands like Camano could use a renowned bounty hunter like Boba Fett right now.

But let me take that thought back down a few notches. The current discussion is about the use of a recovery agent who probably has a legal proposal, and that’s a far cry from a helmeted assassin with a jet pack. The legal use of a recovery agent may prevent vigilantism. From what I know, most people favor LEGAL methods of capturing Harris-Moore, not illegal ones.

Given that the time is ripe for ideas to augment and work in concert with law enforcement’s existing efforts, I hope that the parties who sincerely want to help bring Harris-Moore to justice are at least listened to before their ideas are shot down. Even if any creative ideas don’t work out, at least those people deserve credit for trying to do the right thing. And, again… it gets people talking.

I’ve mentioned the term sociopath before, and that Harris-Moore might be one. I prefer the term psychopath (sometimes the terms are used interchangeably), and an estimated one in 100 people is a psychopath. At minimum I would think that Harris-Moore could be diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder if he hasn’t already. I always add the caveat that it would take an expert to properly diagnose him; I’m just highly suspicious of psychopathy.

On that note, if more people understood what a psychopath is, or more about pathological (abnormal) behavior, then they might be less sympathetic towards his crime spree. There is an excellent short video on You Tube incorrectly titled “Antisocial Personality Disorder” that is actually about psychopaths. The disorders are related but not the same.

I’ll post that link with some others below. Sandra Brown of The Institute for Relationship Harm Reduction gets credit for the first, second, and fourth links as they appeared in a recent newsletter.

Psychopathy: (Dr. Robert Hare is featured here. His books “Without Conscience” and “Snakes in Suits” are very good.) (this was not written by a psychologist, but it’s a good basic explanation of the subject)

Predictability of Pathology:

This is not to say there’s no hope for Harris-Moore, but the long string of remorseless crimes coupled with the sympathy of masses that seem to be brainwashed by his “charm” that not all of us are seeing causes me to consider these disorders. Sometimes the best way to catch a criminal is to understand what you’re dealing with, adjust your response to what is predictable, and then be smarter and faster than they are. Together we can do it.

Keep sending those tips into the Sheriff’s Office—as we civilian law enforcement employees used to say on the phone, we’d rather have you report something that turns out to be nothing than not say anything and have it mean everything.


When nobody knows nothing, somebody knows something. –Captain Jim Brass, CSI


If your eyeballs aren’t raw from my long-windedness yet, here are a couple of posts I made to another blog expounding on some of the above thoughts:


…I submitted a couple of comments to a news site blog on this subject, but they never posted them, and didn’t respond to my email asking if they received them. I found that odd given that the first comment they approved called Camano Islanders some juicy words with an emphatic derogatory one finger salute added.

One of the other commenters on that blog asked why we don’t all just forgive Harris-Moore and show him love and compassion. Unfortunately I don’t think Harris-Moore is the type to respond favorably to that. As powerful as love is, we should acknowledge the presence of evil in this world, and our duty to stand against it.

Here’s my comment that wasn’t posted there (so I’m “ranting” here)… directed to the well-meaning author of another post.

I appreciate the sincerity and concern in the post on acceptance and forgiveness. This may not be the kind of criminal that acceptance and forgiveness do anything for. Harris-Moore’s behavior seems sociopathic, and while it would take an expert to definitively diagnose him as such, I’d say it’s likely that he falls into this category.

This does not appear to be someone who cares about how his actions affect other people. Pacifism will get you nowhere with him. He seems to act without conscience, using other human beings for personal gain without a shred of empathy. There is no proven treatment for sociopaths; the only effective treatment the criminal justice system has to offer is to lock him up and protect everyone else.

Ted Bundy, at the end of his life, gave perhaps the best informal definition of sociopaths to date– he said they’re the people who don’t have the little voice inside them telling them that what they’re doing is wrong. They just don’t care.

There also have to be consequences for Harris-Moore’s actions. He is not harmless, he is not a victim, his choices have had very real effects on people. Forgive him if you are able, but forgiveness does not mean letting your guard down, forgetting, or letting him off the hook. He has to be held accountable.

I really don’t think this is the type of mind that will break down in heartfelt repentance if his slate is wiped clean. Psychologically and spiritually, it is likely more complicated than that. Your intentions are admirable; reality is that this kind of mercy would only be taken advantage of.


Maybe if those of us advocating for the victims and Harris-Moore’s capture keep sticking a broom handle into the hornet’s nest that seems to be his fan base, his “friends” who are sheltering him will reveal themselves publicly. Some people seem blindly passionate about defending him– maybe they’re the ones the authorities need to be talking to.

The psychological effects of having your home broken into or your personal property messed with can be serious. Depression, PTSD, and a horrible sense of violation can result. Think of the child who saw him start a fire when he broke into their house. Although such crimes are catalogued as property crimes, the effects are disturbingly personal. Imagine what it must feel like to have your house broken into by this guy multiple times– it’s happened already.

The lack of empathy for Harris-Moore’s victims is astounding. These people would not be so dismissive if this happened to them. Unfortunately, that’s what it might take for them to understand that these ARE very real crimes. These people also naively celebrate the escalation in Harris-Moore’s behavior that has already occurred without acknowledging how much farther he might go.

He may have found his groove stealing boats and airplanes, but I doubt it. Egged on by this fan base of people who think he’s sticking it to the “man” when, as David pointed out, he’s sticking it to working people with families, he may escalate to more daring and violent acts. Who knows what he’s willing to do to avoid getting caught. If he kills a cop to avoid capture, will his fan base be throwing a party then? Or will that finally be the crime that crossed the line for them?

Anyway, no drug, not even alcohol, causes the fundamental ills of society. If we’re looking for the source of our troubles, we shouldn’t test people for drugs, we should test them for stupidity, ignorance, greed and love of power. -P. J. O’Rourke


©2010 H. Hiatt/ All articles/posts on this blog are copyrighted original material that may not be reproduced in part or whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from H. Hiatt/

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