A brutal sucker punch. A breathtaking donut shop stick-up. The creative use of a valet sign to viciously assault someone.
It's all just another day on CrooksTube. The website is devoted to surveillance videos of America's most horrific unsolved crimes, from random assaults to armed robberies involving knives, guns, even sledgehammers.
Perhaps the only thing that isn't shocking about the website is that it's the work of a South Floridian.
Brett Goldstein says he and a friend started the site back in 2010, not to titillate but to help authorities catch criminals. It's a natural impulse for Goldstein, whose father Barry was a longtime Broward County criminal judge.
"My dad was on New Times' front cover back in mid 90s because he was putting everyone in jail," Goldstein says with a laugh. "We still have a thousand of those papers."
Brett initially took a different tack by becoming a chiropractor, helping society one straightened spine at a time.
But during a vacation from chiropractor's school, Goldstein came home to Coral Springs to learn that an auto parts store near his parents' house had been robbed with AK-47s. Despite a massive manhunt, no one was ever caught.
"All I could think about was how I wished I could have seen the surveillance camera footage," he says. "I might have recognized somebody."
When discussing the heist with his friend Ryan Borcherds, a software developer, the two hit upon the idea of aggregating surveillance footage so that violent criminals could better be identified and caught.
Crookstube was born. Four years later, the website is still pretty bare bones, although it does have a few ads now (not enough to cover expenses, according to Goldstein).
"It's not about the money," he says. "It's about trying to get everyone on board to solve crimes. I want this to be the social media for catching criminals."
Goldstein says police are too overwhelmed to stay on top of every case and TV news programs only show a "tiny clip of a crime" before cutting back to the weather forecast.
But on Crookstube, anyone can peruse thousands of crime videos by category (murder, attempted murder, stabbing, bombing, even hate crime) or date and location.
The result is a mesmerizing melange of human misery: grandpas sucker punched for fun, good samaritans kicked in the head while trying to stop a crime, and kids shot in the back of the head inside burger joints.
"The worst one is from one of Miami's strip clubs" (Coco's, actually), says Goldstein. "Some guy was beat up with a metal pole. It's very gruesome. Let me pull it up for you."
"It's one of most inhumane videos I've seen," Goldstein says. But he also points out that the website isn't pure sadism. If a viewer happens to recognize someone, they can send a tip that will be passed along to Crimestoppers.
And although Crookstube shows crimes from across the country, Goldstein says it can do particular good here in Miami.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
"The whole thing in Miami is 'No Snitching,'" he says. "This is anonymous and on the computer. They get to help people out and hopefully get a cash reward.
"Besides, some of the videos that I see, you want them to get caught because what they do is so violent."