Why Do Criminals Target the Amish?
Too often, we hear stories of criminals seeking out Amish victims. Their crimes include:
- burglary when homeowners are known to be absent (eg, Sunday morning)
- swiping cash from roadside stands (both manned and unmanned)
- assault and robbery
Last Thursday, Amish once again fell prey to wrongdoers, this time in Lawrence County, Tennessee.
One woman has been captured, and two more suspects are being sought, following what sounds like a busy night for local police.
From The Columbia Daily Herald:
Deputies responded to the area of Waterfork Road, where an Amish man was the victim of an armed robbery, according to the release. Around the same time, an Amish man was forced off the road by a motor vehicle. He was considered the victim of a hit and run, according to police.
Later a third Amish man was the victim of another armed robbery. The suspect vehicle in this incident matched the description of the vehicle in the earlier robbery.
Why do criminals target the Amish?
Possible reasons include:
- Amish are safer targets. No personal-protection handguns to worry about
- Less tech (limited access to phones, cars) makes reaching police harder
- A belief they won’t involve authorities
Can you think of any other?
The principle of non-resistance guides Amish life. And all things considered, they are less apt than most to call on law enforcement.
But stories like this, and the recent “undercover Amish” case, show that Amish will aid police to catch criminals.
What do you think?
Juncture of Circumstances
Much like lightning, crime tends to follow a path of least resistance. Also, much like the rich, criminals often come with an exaggerated sense of entitlement – what theirs is their and whats yours is theirs if they can get it. This observation is consistent with Ecclesiastes 5:10.
Criminals target the Amish for much the same reason they often prey upon the elderly. Even a 30-year-old Amish male able to twist a horseshoe into a pretzel can look like ol’ grandpa to a punk in the crime-prone 15-24 demographic.
This age discrimination, indeed marginalization, is aided and abetted by the fact that America has become a society in which the elderly are no longer respected. Instead, far too much political rhetoric proclaims seniors as a burden to society.
Furthermore, as urban areas get tougher on criminal activity, perpetrators are choosing targets in more rural environs. Crime is moving to the suburbs and beyond. The greener pastures for crime includes Amish farms and villages.
To further complicate matters, there is also a widespread and long-standing perception of those living in the country as being less intelligent than supposedly smarter city folks.
In fact, as clearly demonstrated by The New York Time’s infamous coverage of the 19th century Hatfield-McCoy dispute in West Virginia, propaganda surrounding the notion of urban superiority was perpetuated by some of the more sophisticated instruments in American mass media as a way of pacifying urban portions of the population living in often deplorable conditions into believing things could be worse.
The notion of urban inhabitants as being a superior breed was also used to sell the American public on the supposed virtues of mind-numbing modern public education. After all, so the part line of the day went, no one would want to be relegated to the status of a mere country bumpkin!
Yet, the Amish have managed to thrive as outsiders in American life. The threat posed by an invasive criminal elements is merely the latest in a series of obstacles to be overcome by the Amish brand of faith, hope, and love.
Drug motivation for robbing Amish?
Well put, interesting points. The “path of least resistance” may be the most succinct way to summarize the three reasons given above. I didn’t think of putting it that way, but like your example of the elderly as victims, it may come down to doing the math on which victim gives a criminal the best chance at gain with the least risk.
Since you brought up the rural element, meth and other drugs also crossed my mind as a contributor. Meth production and use has been depicted as a rural scourge which has exploded in recent years.
Drugs are cited in some of the stories of crimes against Amish, like these: http://www.cbsnews.com/news/ny-amish-man-robbed-at-gunpoint/
Once one is able to get inside the mind of a criminal – or anyone else for that matter – everything they do makes perfect sense. Much like insurance companies, more cerebral criminals often engage in risk assessment. Those with less functional gray matter are more likely to choose targets of opportunity.
One of the more insurmountable difficulties the Amish face is being surrounded by divided cultures not attuned to being their brother’s keeper. It is also a society that has yet to appreciate Amish play a much better game than they talk.
Also, for what it’s worth, the war on drugs is unwinnable. As with the early 20th century Prohibition of alcohol, the failed attempt to eradicate self-medication has spawned a network of organized criminal activity that will bedevil the broader society for generations to come.
Interesting post. I would never claim that urban dwellers are “superior” to their rural cousins. But I would argue that, all things considered, rural areas are going to be more dangerous places than urban areas.
The late 20th century crime waves in urban areas, and subsequent suburban migration, that American cities saw were something of anomaly. The conditions that caused that no longer exist. People are flocking to big cities again. Cities are by their nature safer. Hospitals and police are never far away; multiple forms of public transportation are available. Plus you have lots and lots of potential witnesses to any crime. Anti-social types are sooner or later going to be “outed” in a city. In a rural area…it’s easier to be as anti-social as you want for a long, long time.
Finally … in generations past (pre-world war II) the Amish were not that different from their neighbors, in style of dress, or in technology used. Today, they are extremely different. Their style of dress may be traditional, but it is anything but “plain” in the minds of most outsiders. So the Amish are more obvious, including to criminals.
I do predict that more Amish sects will begin to carry cell phones – perhaps the type which can only dial 911 or a few other numbers, for emergency use. Perhaps, some will experiment with different living arrangements – such as compact villages with houses surrounded fields (common in Israel, China and other countries) or even “colonizing” an urban area (as Hasidic Jews live).
“…rural areas are going to be more dangerous places than urban areas…..”
You really have a lot of things backwards Ed and history proves me out. In the country you have low population densities of people are that are largely prepared to feed themselves, the have a Christian foundation, and almost all are well armed, including the Amish.
In the city you have a high population density, of people that can not feed themselves, less of a Christian foundation, and in not nearly as well armed.
I moved out of an urban area to come here. Most of the newcomers are also city people that see the handwriting on the wall.
Our worse enemy is going to be the authorities that are trying to eliminate rural life and get everyone to move into cities. (UN Agenda 21) That the authorities want you in a city ought to be the big clue that cities are the last place that you want to be when times get rough.
I expect my family members in cities to die there if they don’t wake up to reality.
Joe, I respectfully disagree. Look at almost any qualty of life indicator – not just in the U.S. but around the world – and you will find that urban dwellers live longer lives, have better health, more access to education, and higher incomes. No one is forcing anyone to move into cities — people willingly migrate to cities for all the advantages they bring.
It is true that most city dwellers “cannot feed themselves” as in they don’t grow their own food. But even among the Amish, how many rural dwellers are truly self-sufficient? Very very few. The fact is we are an interconnected world, and even remote rural people rely on inputs from elsewhere or rely on outsiders as markets for their surplus crops.
I wouldn’t say that urban dwellers are “less Christian” than rural dwellers. Urban dwellers are probably slightly more tolerant, because anywhere you have so many people sharing close quarters, people are going to learn to live and let live.
Finally – and I say this with the most loving intent – you’re quoting conspiracy theories about secret UN agenda to herd people into cities sounds rather bonkers. Simply put, it’s not happening, and it’s not something we need to worry about. May I suggest you visit one of our cities, and see for yourself how things are reviving?
You don’t really see what is coming Ed.
Things are about to change….
I don’t have a crystal ball, but statistically
I am going to be much better off out here.
You do know that 7 million Americans, mostly city folk
starved to death during the last great depression and this one is
going to be much worse IMHO.
As with IQ testing, understanding quality of life indices begins with understanding who created them and why.
The notion of city-dwellers being “superior” was part of a broader scheme by capitalists to avail themselves of cheap farm labor available to farm families.
What better way to convince folks to give up their independence than selling them on the notion that moving to the city and, figuratively at least, dancing to the tune played by the boss made them superior to those bumpkins back on the farm? It has to be numbered among the grandest con jobs in human history!
The makings of post-World War II suburbia may be traced to both early 20th century trollies as well as public policies emanating from Washington during the Great Depression. It was further facilitated by affordable automobiles powered by cheap gasoline and a reversal of traditional mortgage practices that were backed by Uncle Sam.
While urban areas offer many attractions, they can also be quite expensive. In particular, housing costs for those without benefit of inherited property can be exorbitant. In some places, even rain water figures into the ordinances or tax scheme!
Congestion can be maddening. Incidents of road rage and aggressive driving are common. A single motor vehicle accident or metro derailment can literally change the schedules for tens of thousands of people. Just one lunatic with a firearm or homemade bomb can be king for a day!
Quite often, large cities are little more than assemblages of small towns. Some neighborhoods may be based on ethnicity. Others are predicated on socioeconomic status. The number and diversity of churches in a city offers some insight into the divisions present therein.
There may also be the thought that these people might carry more cash because they do not use credit cards. There can even be the perception that they might not use the banking system. Certainly people who have a home based business such as a roadside stand do tend to have more cash on hand than most urbanites.
Another good point. I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of people imagined Amish did not use banks and checking accounts. Sometimes even the closest neighbors to the Amish know very little about the Amish.
this might help
i’ve heard of several instances where an english person stops at an amish home under some made up reason. towards the end of the conversation the english person asks if the amish person could cash a check. the amish agrees, cashes the check only to find out the check is worthless. one thing the amiish could do is copy down the license plate of the english’s car. if the check bounces at least the police have a better chance of finding the bad guy and getting the amish persons money and bad check expenses back.
Targeting the Amish
This just saddens me that “low life’s” continue to wreck havoc on a peaceful way of life, by bringing harm to others, with no remorse. Very sad situation and we all must be vigilant to keep these thieves from over-running our lives! I know our law enforcement everywhere is being stretched thin, in keeping the peace, in every town/city in the USA. Our hearts go out for those that have been robbed and to those who help keep the peace!
targeting the amish
Sharon R I couldn’t have said it any better. So very sad.
All of the reasons mentioned above contribute toward “English on Amish” crime, especially in Old Order communities where communication with the English and use of modern technology (i.e., cell phones) are virtually non-existent.
I finished reading “Northkill” last week, and although much of the “modern” “English on Amish” crime isn’t as horrific as that massacre, it will surely continue since it seems most Amish refuse to involve law enforcement when a crime is committed against them.
There is more “entitlement” in “English” culture than ever–I see it every day at the library. That’s a big part of many crimes committed these days. Very sad for all of us!
Sad to say they only got $28 from the first man they robbed here in Ethridge. They still have not captured the men. And yes sadly drugs were most likely responsible.
Robbing the Amish for a few bucks
Ugh. Whenever I hear how little these people make off with, it makes the whole thing worse.
It may sound strange, but it’s almost like you’d want to hear that they at least got a few hundred dollars for everyone’s trouble.
Not at all excusing their criminal actions, but considering the risk someone like this takes–felony conviction and imprisonment (not to mention the worst-case situation of someone getting hurt or killed)–for such little gain, it just seems pathetic.
A person has to be in a bad place to begin with to make such decisions.
I think this is so very sad. It is just going to continue to remind the Amish and Mennonites to stay true to their way of life by keeping seperate from the world. There is so much that also goes on in the English world that we never hear about I am sure. Although I do believe drugs are in some ways probobly a reason for criminal activity I also believe that parents working and mothers away from home also is a problem today. Children in many ways are raising themselves while parents try to work so much to keep up with the Jones and give our children more than they need rather than taking the time to install strong character values and a respect for themselves, our community, and others. Maybe this is why crime within Amish and Mennonite communities very seldom occurs because they hold family community and others to such a high standard. I think we have much to learn from the Amish and Mennonites. For these families that have been effected I will continue to pray for all of them. Thanks Eric for the blog!!!
In Pawnee City Nebraska the family that run the “bent N dent” salvage store claim that kids come in a take stuff because they know that the Amish do not prosecute/sue. That being the case, some Amish business’s will put up large convex security mirrors and list little warnings on some shelf’s around the store that says the person is being watched. (can’t remember exactly what they said, maybe a bible quote about stealing?) High targeted items are places closer to the register.
I suppose you could have other Amish that would steal from them, but for the most part it’s probably English that do it.
Tom Geist…. LincNebr@hotmail.com
Wait till hard times
In my church we had a discussion many times of what was going to befall the Amish when the dollar crashed, and people were going to be hungry. Everyone here (Seymour) knows that the Amish cellars are full of food so it is likely to get nasty.
My take is that if the robbing gets bad, that quite a few Amish will defend themselves, as many have deer rifles.
IMHO the real criminal that the Amish have to worry about are the Federal and State agencies that are trying to turn small farmers into criminals, and run them out of business. They are hurt really badly already by the raw milk laws that prevent them from selling in retail stores.
I never really thought much about your last paragraph before Joe. You are spot on though. I would hope that they can stay strong as long as possible. If there was a shortage of food I would hope maybe some of us English would be able to go back to some of the old ways and provide food for ourselves especially gardening. In many ways we have it so good many do not even think of the long term effects we will face up the road. Veronica
Joe, you’re taking your own viewpoints and attributing them to the Amish. And you couldn’t be more wrong. The Amish aren’t going to take to using weapons to defend themselves, let alone against “the decline of the dollar”. And marauding gangs are not roving our rural areas ready to rob people of stored food. For that matter, the Amish aren’t into stockpiling more food or supplies than one familiy could reasonably use over a winter. If you care about the Amish, read up about their viewpoints. There’s a reason the Amish are known as a “peace church”. Gun-toting survivalism isn’t their way.
I hope you’ll read a few more of Erik’s posts here about the Amish and their life. I suspect, though, you are trolling here and hoping to either stir up acrimony or find others interested in your viewpoints. For whatever it’s worth, I like rural areas, and I have nothing against guns or their proper use, and I appreciate personal liberty. But your talk of urban gangs, socialism, combined your your obvious fear of foreigners or anyone different from yourself…I find it paranoid and wacky.
Ed I have heard quite a few of them say the they will defend them-selves with firearms if it gets bad. I have also heard the same thing second hand from a Mennonite friend that deals with a lot of local Amish…… So I don’t have to read up on anything, and I am not putting my thoughts in their mouths. Nor do I think that they were lying. A friend that reloads, sells ammo by the 1,000 rounds to some Amish, a lot more than needed for hunting, but what you would require for self defense.
Use use the word “Amish” like tens of thousands of people are zombies, and not individuals. I assure you Ed that they are individuals and don’t always listen to or agree with their Bishop.
Ed we think that collectivists and most city people are paranoid and wacky for the record. I assure you that your idea of personal liberty and the idea of personal liberty in these parts are no where to being close.
“….combined your your obvious fear of foreigners or anyone different from yourself…I find it paranoid and wacky…”
Ed I assure you I do not fear anyone, most people in these parts don’t because most people are armed, even in the churches here and we have a much much lower crime rate than any urban area I have ever lived in.
I am well traveled Ed and have no fear of foreigners, in fact I very much enjoy other cultures, foods, and people. I love people that are different than myself, it makes the world interesting. I just got back from a long visit to Chicago which is a very diverse place.
What I do not tolerate however and most country people will not tolerate is infringements upon MY rights. You saw what just went on in Nevada didn’t you? People can be as different as they wish and believe anything that they want to, do anything that they want to, just as long as they do not infringe upon my rights.
I repeat when I say that collectivists and most city are so dumbed down because of government schools, that they don’t even recognize that people have rights, they think that we have permissions granted from government. If you think that me respectfully voicing my opinion is trolling Ed… well we will just have to disagree.
Sorry Joe, but you are understanding the Amish through your own eyes. Irrespective how bad things get, few if any Amish will resort to violence to defend their property.
Why would one throw away eternity in heaven with God through an act of violence, just to protect physical possession destined to rot and turn to dust?
The Amish believe that one can lose one’s salvation through going against that what God has commanded. God has commanded us to love our enemies, to bless those who curse us, to do good deeds towards those who persecute us, and not to resist the evil man.
Nowhere in the N.T. are we instructed to physically defend or protect, life, land or goods. In fact the N.T. instructs us to do the exact opposite, to give it all away without resistance.
Only those raise in a blood thirsty church that believes in putting a bullet in the enemy’s head to protect physical possessions, where physical possessions have greater value than a person created in the image of God, would believe that the Amish would resort to violence to defend physical possessions.
Not going to happen.
Hatred of the "Other"
I think some of it is as much about the Amish being “different” as it is about any money. In a way, some of these incidents seem like “hate crimes with benefits.” Sure, you can throw rocks at a buggy, but if you break into a farmhouse, you may also come away with some cash.
By the way, I doubt that it’s gangs of urbanites preying on rural folk. Criminals, whether urban or rural, seem to stick to their own community (comfort zones combined with basic laziness). These criminals are the victims’ neighbors. Yes, rural areas have criminals. Fewer of them, numerically, than a city, but only because there are fewer people total in the country. I’m not convinced the percentage is any lower than in a typical city.
Two birds with one stone?
That may well be a part of some crimes. Dislike of the Amish has been cited in pranks and harassment against them. If you are out for money to support a drug habit it probably is more about what presents the quickest/safest path to that goal, but maybe it comes into play when other factors are more or less equal.
Amish may very well be targeted because they simply happen to be there. I think there is truth in your description of laziness/comfort zone playing a role (or victims as “targets of opportunity” for less-sharp criminals, as See Both Sides put it above).
A thought on urban vs. rural
I thought of the never-ending “debate” about whether it city people or country people have a better life when I saw a little of a TV program on “urban sprawl.” It intrigued me to see that, from the perspective of the urban people who made the program, the bad thing about urban sprawl was “moving people from high population density to (relatively) low population density”; of course, they presumed, it is better for everyone to live in high-density areas.
As a person from a relatively rural area, I can tell you we also dislike urban sprawl, but we define the “problem” differently: the city encroaching on territory that was formerly rural. We see this as undercutting the things we like about our way of life: open spaces, closeness to food production, the existence of natural areas, and a greater degree of personal privacy and independence. When a corn field is divided up into 2-acre lots for city-dwellers who want to live in the “country,” something is lost for the people who have long lived in the surrounding area.
Moreover, the newcomers, even though they came because they WANTED something different from the city, often bring urban attitudes with them, such as a feeling of superiority, the assumption that only urban passtimes count as cultural activities (for example, the opera, rather than the county fair) and annoyance at inconveniences like being stuck in a 2-mile-long No Passing zone behind a tractor–or a buggy.
Trish I agree that it can be a horrible thing when city people come to the country especially from socialist places like NY or CA, and try to bring their destructive practices to rural areas. Many people in the country choose to do so because of the much higher level of freedoms afforded to living in the country and we don’t appreciate city bringing their North Korean world view to us.
One of the most destructive things I have seen pushed on us here by city liberals are building codes. Our county does not have one yet thank God. It is beyond my ability to comprehend how anyone other than a tyrant or the mentally marginalized can think that they have a right to force building codes on someone else’s property. Most American’s, city people in particular, no longer have a clue as to what a right is. They come up with all sorts of rationalizations but in the end they don’t have a clue. They view everything as a permission that comes from government.
The ones coming from the liberal states very much remind me of the Muslims that have invaded Dearborn Michigan and forced their culture on the people there.
On the other hand some of my closest friends came from urban areas, but they are the ones that understand what personal liberty and freedom are all about.
Wow, fascinating all of this, the post by Erik and everyone who has shared opinions in the comments. Wow, what a variety of views. I think that’s a fair comment on my part.
I wrote a much longer reply, but I didn’t like it because it was too filled with thoughts I cannot back up.
But thank you all for the interesting perspectives.
Look at a human population growth chart. It’s not difficult to see that human population has exploded in the past 100 years from being relatively stable for thousands of years. This increase in population has brought more tension, loss of “rights”, increased pollution and overall stress on everything. And it’s only going to get worse! The caring capacity of this wonderful earth is reaching limit. Once reached, nothing good will happen as God has a plan. No one will be untouched especially the Amish, who I fear will be wiped out. Their life style and beliefs will not survive against bands of roving lawless marauder’s who will pillage the landscape at will taking whatever they find of value or just taking. I hope I don’t live long enough to see it but I fear for my kids. I hope I’m wrong. History says I’m not.
Does being Amish ever insulate people against crime?
Ok, so criminals are not the most moral segment of society, but I wonder if some criminals might go out of their way not to mess with the Amish for superstitious reasons. I wonder the same thing about criminals bothering nuns, priests, and other clergy. Obviously there are criminals who don’t care, but I wonder if some view the deeply religious as a red line they won’t cross? I wonder if some criminals have a warped sense of ethics? It’s interesting to me that one will from time to time hear about prisoners punishing fellow inmates who are perpetrators of especially heinous crimes.
Hadn't thought of that.
Kathy, really interesting question. Maybe something like the Mafia members portrayed in film and television who maintain a sort of reverence for the church while at the same time committing acts of violence.
There might be something working in the other direction for some lawbreakers regarding the Amish, though it would probably be difficult to determine.
Kathy and Erik, I know I’m late to this question, but I can tell you from having worked at churches that there is some truth to the idea of “sanctuary” from crime because of a visible association with religion, but the degree of “protection” varies in different communities. Older clergy remember a time when nearly all criminals were fairly superstitious (you can’t call it “moral,” if they were criminals!), believing it was bad luck of some kind to commit a crime against a church or its representatives.
In one church where I worked, however, as the neighborhood declined that superstition seemed to fade, and we began to suffer from vandalism and break-ins on church property. Later, I worked at a different church where the neighborhood had become overwhelmingly Latino, so naturally, the criminals in the area were also Latino. They would not lay a finger on the church. It had become customary for young kids who wanted to “audition” for gang membership (kids as young as 10 or 11–very sad!) to spraypaint graffiti on local buildings to get the gang’s attention, in hopes of being initiated by the time they were 14. Only once was a building owned by the church spraypainted. Word on the street was that those kids did NOT impress the gang; they had greatly miscalculated! (My best guess is that instead of getting “jumped in” to the gang, they simply got beaten up for vandalizing the church.)
I can imagine some gangs having similar peer pressure against attacking the Amish. But you have to live around the “right” gang.
Guilt by Association
Latter day Amish suffer guilt by association with increasingly suspect organized religion. Over the past several years, news media have had numerous stories about pedophile priests, philandering pastors, and the like. As a result, much of the aura that once enveloped churches in a protective cocoon has been stripped away. Both churches and the membership thereof are increasingly seen as businesses.
Another interesting anecdote Trish on the reverence for religious symbolism among some criminals. Actually superstition sounds like it might more accurately describe the phenomenon than warped morality.
Obviously, say in the case of criminal types revering Christian rituals and structures, they are blatantly ignoring and contradicting the teachings underpinning those visual markers they hold up.
It seems to me Christianity can and often is co-opted in any manner of ways even by otherwise destructive and anti-Christian people, with a key ingredient being personal conviction, the belief that you are in the right and “God is on my side”.
Crime against the Amish,
We should have a Jail that looks like back when the Amish got started to those creaps can equally root their.
Maybe an Amish that dress up to make a point as a Dep Sheriff that gives no modern Convenience.
I have meet some Amish People whome are very peacful. they are much more intersting for hours vs the creeps that must have everythig their own way. Like all of us. some excuse themslelvs, while others move on peaefully.
The way they teach their Childern is Strict disaplened, even if they rarely misbhaved, which is unherd of to the modern creps that cause harm to the Amish.
Therfore, their are Road signgs that says: Sahre the Road with Bikes. People walking and Amish Horse and Buggy in plan English.
Perhaps, the sign should be, sense we near MX in Spanish. then those creaps that cause crime against the Amish will wake up.
If I made any Spell and or Grammer Errors, then Excuse you. Therefore, no one is perfect, and Typos happen as an oversight.
While I appreciate the kind people that corrected my errors, their are other creeps that want everything perfect, only for themselves.
I’m Amish and live in one of the biggest Amish communities. I have never heard one of our people say they’d defend themselves against robbery. It would go against my personal convictions, but I can not speak for every single Amish person of course. Dirk said it very well and I agree.
Glad to say that the remaining two were captured this afternoon, 4/22 and are behind bars. The woman is still there as well.
captured in lawrence county
since this also mentioned the undercover officer, I wanted to clarify it is the Ethridge community in Lawrence County, TN
like SHOM, I had written a long post with loads of comments. But I have yet to see “God’s Will” anywhere (someone came close to it, but not quite). Most Amish will not use fire/smoke alarms; orange triangles; cell phones; or tote guns in their buggies – if it is God’s will, He and only He will protect them.