back to article Computer glitch prompts 50 raids on elderly couple's home

New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg apologized to an elderly Brooklyn couple on Friday for about 50 door-pounding visits police made to their home resulting from a glitch in one of the department's computers. Police used the address of Rose and and Walter Martin's modest home as part of "random material" to test the …


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  1. Richard Scratcher

    problem finally resolved...

    ...and so now they have the perfect hideout!

  2. Anonymous Coward

    swatting ver. 2.0

    hmm.. interesting new avenue for swatting someone: include their address in a test file later used as "random" data input.


  3. jake Silver badge


    Now all the thugs in the five Boroughs (and Joisy) know which house they can burgle with impunity.

  4. ratfox

    Sounds good to me

    Where do they live? Do they have money in their home?

    Mine's the one with the Saturday night special in the pocket

  5. Anonymous Coward

    One term comes to mind...

    ... crywolf...

    Mine is the one written "Big Bad Wolf" and a big picture of a cartoon wolf on the back, a la Tex Avery...

  6. Ian 31

    Workaround <> Fix

    They don't know what's going on do they? So instead of fixing the problem they bodge it. FFS they've had 4 years to work out what's going on. Numpties. And God help Mr and Mrs Martin if they ever ring the police because they need them.

    Wanders off muttering to self in search of more beer......

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Jobs Horns

    "On our file"

    Makes you wonder just how effectively people's DNA is removed from UK police records, doesn't it?

    What happens with regard to this 'flag' if the couple are now burgled or need immediate police assistance for some reason? Isn't there a risk of a 'boy who cried wolf' scenario here, in that if the day comes that they actually need the police to help them, no one will come because they'll either think it's another bogus call or they'll be too scared to go in case it's a bogus call?

    Have they sued the police and/or the mayor?

  8. Brian Miller

    Why not use fictional addresses?

    One would think that fictional addresses would be used instead of someone's actual house. Then there wouldn't be a problem having to bang on the "door" of an empty lot, or in the middle of the street. And *why* are they raiding these supposed "tracking" addresses?

    Ah, now that everything is fixed by tagging the residence as "do not enter" I expect it will be bought by a Mafia don for his activities.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      that has it's own issues

      when the system i work with was first but, all the addresses were populated with fictional data to test printing subsystems, business processes, etc.

      Unfortunately, when someone(a complete moron) managed to delete all of the valid address data from their location's server 10 years later, it fell back on the fictional test data everyone had forgotten about, and started printing it in the corner of all the letters sent out.

      I'm sure you can use your imagination as to the sort of things a bunch of developers will come up with for fictional data when bored with testing! It was not a PR boost for the company.

    2. Stephen Rodda

      Use false addresses?

      Presumably there's a sort of sanity check to ensure that the address entered is correct.

    3. John Dougald McCallum


      better yet use an address in another state ....OH like 1200 Pennsylvania Ave.

  9. informavorette

    Spoiler alert

    "This time, police officials say, the Martins' address has been flagged with an alert, "so if there's any record indicating an officer should visit the address, 'they're barred from doing it,'" the AP said here."

    I know this story. I think I've first heard it when my daddy read the brothers Grimm' tales to me.

    There are some differences. In the original, the sheep aren't given names like Rose and Walter, and the town doesn't tell the world they've been lead by the nose several times. But it still seems that the end for the sheep will be exactly the same - when the wolf actually comes, they get eaten because everybody officially disregards the shepherd's cries.

    1. The Indomitable Gall

      False data.

      Neither Jacob nor Wilhelm picked this one up. This was one of Aesop's, so you're about 2 millennia out....

  10. ElReg!comments!Pierre

    I can see the price of the property rocket...

    Surely there would be some people around who might be wanting to invest a nice pile of cash in a house guaranteed to never be raid by the police...

  11. Gilleain Torrance

    I'll buy their house!

    So this house can now NEVER be raided by the cops? That sounds...useful. Perhaps they could be persuaded to sell up?

  12. Dick Emery

    This could end up...

    ...the best safe house for crims in the country.

  13. eoosullivan

    Buttle?? Tuttle??

    I'm sure that Harry Buttle can sympathize with them!

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "if there's any record indicating an officer should visit...

    "... the address, 'they're barred from doing it.""

    In other news, an elderly Brooklyn couple has recently begun a lucrative business dealing in stolen goods and crack cocaine.

  15. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    Coders and "random" data.

    Icon says it all.

  16. MadonnaC



    Hmm.. that took 2 seconds to create. I wonder if I can get a job with NYPD to fix their database problems?

  17. Christoph

    Completely clueless

    In four years they haven't been able to fix a major bug in their system, and have now given up and kludged round it? Their computer system is Not Fit For Purpose. If it's so complex that they can't track that fault down, it must be riddled with other bugs. People are going to die because of faults in that system.

    And in fifty events, not one of the police has learnt that there's a problem with that address and they should check before raiding it, so they have to use a computer kludge to do it for them?

    By the way, were the alarms completely bogus, or were fifty other people left wondering why the police were ignoring their emergency call?

    One good thing about it though. They're lucky they're in New York. If they were in London the Met would have shot them the first time.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Big Brother

      Droneland Security

      Yanks should be familiar with this.

      Ask the senior suit from Intel who has an FBI escort every time he needs to fly.

      Droneland security flags him as a terrorist and admits there is no way to remove the false record.

      Escort gets him past the insecurity checkers with a minimum of fuss.

      1. Allan George Dyer

        I feel a movie plot arriving...

        Terrorist operative kidnaps senior suit and, through plastic surgery, exchanges faces, loads up with C4 and gets an FBI escort onto a plane...

        You could get John Travolta to play the senior suit, and Nicolas Cage the terrorist operative, or the other way round. In fact, this sounds so good, I'm surprised it hasn't been done already.

        Icon: screen grab halfway though the op.

      2. Wayland Sothcott 1

        Surely impossible to get through on the no fly list

        Wow, that's so insaine. What if oneday he has explosives in his underpants?

    2. ph0b0s

      Took 51 raids in error to get a workaround!?

      I took them 51 raid to think to do this. I would have thought that after 3 times it would have been obvious and something would have been done. But 51 times.... Does the average New York home get raided in error that many times that only 51 times looks bad? I hope the victims of this get a nice payout from the city.

  18. kain preacher


    One good thing about it though. They're lucky they're in New York. If they were in London the Met would have shot them the first time.

    Problems solved . What's the issue ?

    Bye the why this is New York. They shot a man for having a wallet in his hand . 41 shorts fired 21 hit him. 3 officers involved. Who knows who else the cops killed that day. Same police dept that thought it would be a good Idea to shove a plunger up the guys ass. here is bit of NYPD history.

    The original NYPD was violent so corrupt that the state had put their on police dept in NY. To distinguish the the police depts apart , the state appointed police dept wore copper badges . Hence the term coppers . Yeah so dont believe that the NYPD wont shoot an elderly couple

    1. The Indomitable Gall

      If his is untitled, why isn't mine?

      "To distinguish the the police depts apart , the state appointed police dept wore copper badges . Hence the term coppers ."

      No, a large portion of the NYPD were immigrants from the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland (as it was at the time) where police were commonly called coppers, and many people still do.

  19. Anonymous Coward

    Ambulance chasers

    Now they will be raided by lawyers.

    50 raids to a address for cmputer glitch spells big money in a civil suit.. Enough to move to a better address. In Beverly Hills.

  20. Stephen Rodda

    Modest House?

    IANAL, but they should be living somewhere immodest by now :)

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Big Brother

    Not unique

    I knew a couple who left the west coast of Oz because the local goons could not distinguish between local thug and local citizen who just happened to have the same name.

    Multiple door openings, arrests and tedious interogations while they determined for the Nth time that the address they went to contained an innocent man.

    After the usual years of apologies and subsequent repeat arrests, it became easier to leave town.

    Big Bro because there are now more computer systems watching us to screwed up with consequences for the innocent.

  22. Graham Marsden

    "Err, Sergeant...

    "... Haven't we been here before and found a harmless old couple?"

    "Shut up, Officer Liberal, and get that battering ram ready!"

  23. Daemon ZOGG

    "Computer glitch prompts 50 raids on elderly couple's home"

    Even the first time.. in my neighborhood.. the would have been kept at bay until proper IDs were verified. Violation of proper ID verification would resulted in waves of 7.62x54mm rapid Semi-Auto fire. Since criminals here have been known for impersonating the incompetent law-enforcement we have here. Proper Law-Enforcement agents must present photo ID before entry is allowed. Tear-gas, flash-bang grenades, and bullet resistant armor will not be accepted as an excuse.

  24. Cliff

    Just because you made it up doesn't mean it doesn't exist

    Ahhhh I worked for a *VERY BIG* computer company, one that should have known better, when they were testing a new very big system. They decided to use <realusername> to send copies of <realusername>'s live billing information as test data. Some clever Business Analyst (with an MBA, no doubt) decided that because they *made up* sending it to ** as opposed to *<ourcompanyname>.com* it wouldn't inconvenience our real staff with their test data. Just because you make something up doesn't mean it doesn't exist. If the folks over at had checked their mailservers a few years back, they would have had so much commercially sensitive and personally identifiable information that the company could have been fined thousands (as well as the value of the contracts they could/should have lost if had sold on the data).

    This is why, for test purposes, you MUST HAVE real, verified false data. In US films, all phone numbers use the (verified false) area code 555 - otherwise you get dickheads phoning the number - and woe betide you if you end up phonebombing some innocent litigious family! Same with vehicle registration plates, etc. Just making up data can only mean trouble!

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    I want one of those.

    "This time, police officials say, the Martins' address has been flagged with an alert, "so if there's any record indicating an officer should visit the address, 'they're barred from doing it,'" the AP"

    Now if they're smart it's time to set up the meth lab and install some hookers.

  26. alistair millington


    The best thing to do would be to FLAG the system to have an officer CALL them with a phone and check?. Then at least if there is really a 999 call from the couple, they get some response. Or is it only police that are not bothering?

    What about fire and ambulance? Do they respond and break in with axes, hosing down everybody in the room first? Or come shock paddling everyone in sight?

    1. MeRp


      It is extremely unlikely that there will be a 999 call from this couple; if there were it would definitely garner no response. They live in New York, and 999 does not connect to anyone/anything; rather they would have to dial 911 for emergency services.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Dear, sweet Jesus

    I don't suppose any NYPD officers have recently driven off cliffs have they? []

    Daft sods.

  28. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    Use false addresses?

    The trouble is the address and zip code (and possibly phone) have to match up for the test.

    So if you are testing a mailing system you can't just use 1 Main st. Nosuch Town.

    In the UK the PO list gives you the limit of numbers for each street and each postcode, but the postie will still just put the dummy letters through a random door, and you don't know if they will build a few more houses in the future

  29. disgruntled yank

    What happened to common sense at the precinct?

    NYC police precincts are just not that large. Shouldn't, about the 10th time this happened, some desk sergeant have said, "Ah, fuggedaboutit! Toohey and Muldoon, you gotta go check it out, but don't going banging on the door and scare Walter and Rose."

  30. RW
    IT Angle

    Why it happened

    The project leader was the police chief's second cousin's son.

    I wax sarcastic in saying that, but it's clear that whoever was in charge of systems development didn't know what they were doing. Did they perhaps use some ancient, screwy, non-relational database system that doesn't offer the equivalent to naked SQL?

    Or is it one of those legacy systems that's been in existence for 30-40 years and through the normal processes of "enhancement" has become truly Byzantine in its complexity, with source code lost and original programmers long retired?

    Or was it an accountant that pointed out that a cheesecake was cheaper than paying to get the bad data properly purged?

    Or all of the above?

  31. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    Didn't they notice? And lawsuit?

    "And in fifty events, not one of the police has learnt that there's a problem with that address and they should check before raiding it, so they have to use a computer kludge to do it for them?"

    This was the most surprising part to me! I mean, utterly crap computer systems just seem to be the norm -- overcomplicated, probably paid someone per hour so as soon as it "worked" they didn't pay for bugs to be fixed, and noone there knows how it works. (The third being the big problem most likely.) I'm saddened now when I hear people comment it's normal for computers to crash or make mistakes -- I point out, no it's not, run god desktop and server software and it won't keep screwing up on you like that.

    But yeah, no matter how many system problems, wouldn't the cops notice they are going to the same house over and over?

    You'd think this couple would sue. I would have considered it after the first time and certainly after 2 or 3 (I guess depending on how cool the cops were about it, but I've seen enough reality TV that I doubt they played it cool.)

  32. Anonymous Coward

    Unlucky for some

    Perhaps they should use addresses on streets that don't have number 13 on them for supersticious reasons or just use a ridiculously large number. Infinite main street anyone?

  33. Al 4

    DIfferent city same type of problem

    The problem is these systems are self populating. Once the data gets entered it gets copied in different ways and unless all those variations are removed then the problem is never solved, because the data will be recreated that caused the raid. Or as in the case of a local couple getting a house they bought off a drug house they quit getting raided. The cops said they hadn't done all the things they needed to to get off the registry and were seeking publicity but the news channel showed that they had done what they were suppose to and so the department was "looking into it" meaning they were working what they can do now to cover their ass.

  34. D 13

    A once in a lifetime oppotunity to

    Move out, fill the house with cannabis plants, and make a fortune confident in the knowledge that the police aren't going to kick the door in.

  35. David Edwards

    Test St

    Perhaps they live at

    1 Test St?

    Mr and Mrs Test

    1 Test St



    Say you never did that! (Ok never anywhere that mattered)

  36. Jon 52

    Obligatory simpsons reference

    It was not 123, Fake Street by any chance!

  37. Simon B

    Police + court = ooh look we fixed it

    Prosceute the police for stress EVERY time they do it, I bet it soon gets fixed!!

  38. Ross 7

    Test data in live server?!

    Ummm, wtf?! So what they're saying is, they've put made up info in a live system? NYs solicitors are presently rubbing their hands with glee I imagine.

    Test system is for test data. Live system is for live data. How ****ing hard is it to understand that? If you want to test data in the live system you dup the thing - you don't put garbage in, 'cause we all know what happens if you do.

    Given that their system appears to have replicated the data all over the shop and they don't have a clue where it's gone (gotta love outsourcing IT projects and not getting the design docs 'cause hey - you'll never need to know how it works under the hood right?) that simple lesson is going to cost them an awful lot of time and money.


  39. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Wrong icon

    This story is incorrectly showing up on the front page with the red China/Google icon.

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