Credit: Billy Penn Illustration

The tale of the Binary Bandits came full circle this week, when dozens of stolen 0s and 1s in a white trash bag were dropped on a front porch in East Kensington.

Something must have happened. Either the duo traversing the neighborhood yanking address markers off of homes was done with the numbers, or they had some sort of remorse for their thievery. And maybe that remorse was just a little bit of holiday spirit.

There are too many parallels to Dr. Seuss’ “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” from the originality of stealing the numbers in the first place to the full 180 at the end, the conclusion of which was the grinch the bandits returning the stolen items entirely. Police say they’re still working on nailing the thieves. But for now, we might as well make this Grinch analogy a little clearer.

Without further ado, here’s the Billy Penn version of the Binary Bandits — holiday style (and with a big assist from the original Dr. Seuss tale):

Every home down in Kenzo liked its numbers a lot…
But Binary Bandits, the villains, did not!
The Bandits stole numbers! All through the season!
Now, please don’t ask why. No one quite knows the reason.

It could be their heads weren’t screwed on just right.
It could be, perhaps, that their shoes were too tight.
But I think that the most likely reason of all,
May have been that their hearts were two sizes too small.

Whatever the reason, their hearts or their shoes,
There they walked in September, and then made the news.
Staring up at a lens with a sour, Grinchy frown,
At the steal-able numbers all through the town.

Credit: Anna Orso/Billy Penn

Now the Bandit prob knew every resident was
Asking why these scoundrels don’t follow the laws.
“And they’re hanging their numbers!” he snarled with a sneer,
“Tomorrow I’ll take them! It’s practically here!”

Then he growled as he called to his thievery squad
“I must find some way to steal from a facade!”
For tomorrow he knew, the residents, everyone,
Would wake bright and early. They’d walk by their ones!
And then! Oh, the ones! Oh, the ones!
Ones! Ones! Ones!
That’s one thing he wanted! The ones!
Ones! Ones! Ones!

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Then folks would get up for work, and put on their clothes
And they’d finally, just then, lose all their zeroes!
Zeroes! Zeroes! Zeroes!
They would wonder why someone would take all their numbers
Which was something the Bandit found just so much funner.

And then they’d do something he liked least of all!
Every resident in Kenzo, the tall and the small,
Would call the police, the 26th’s phones ringing.
They’d stand in their homes. And the cops they’d be pinging!
They’d ping! And they’d ping! And they’d ping!
Ping! Ping! Ping!

And the more the Bandit thought of his sinister plan,
The more the Bandit thought, “I must do what I can!”
“Why, for the last three years I’ve put up with it now!”
“I must have all these address numbers! But how?”
Then he got an idea! An awful idea!
The Bandit got a wonderful, awful idea!
“I know just what to do!” The Bandit laughed, which was weird.
And made a quick disguise of a hat and a beard.

And he chuckled, and clucked, “What a great Bandit trick!”
“With this beard and this hat, I’ll look just so hip!”
“All I need are some friends…” The Bandit looked around.
But, since friends are scarce, there were none to be found.
Did that stop the Bandit? No! The Bandit simply said,
“If I can’t find friends, I’ll make them instead!”

So he called a few people. And he told them the plan,
And together they became the Binary Bandits band.
Then he loaded some bags
And some old empty sacks,
And got to work stealing, soon was the climax.

These two individuals were caught on two separate home surveillance systems stealing numbers off of homes in East Kensington.
These two individuals were caught on two separate home surveillance systems stealing numbers off of homes in East Kensington. Credit: Videos via Meghan Haley and Jenna Feldman

Then the Bandit said, “Let’s go!” And he made his way down,
Toward the homes where Kenzo residents were asnooze in their town.
All their windows were dark. Quietness filled the air.
All the folks were all dreaming sweet dreams without care.
When he came to the first little house on the square.

“This is stop number one,” the Binary Bandit hissed,
And he walked up the steps, a tool in his fist.
Then he pried off a 1 or a 0, A rather tough task.
He didn’t even bother to wear a bandit mask.
He failed to notice that just above his face,
Was a security camera catching every part of this case.
Where the little 1s and 0s all hung in a row.
“These numbers,” he grinned, “are the first ones to go!”

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Then he slithered and slunk, while the ‘hood was in a slumber,
Around the whole area, and he took every number!
The ones! And the zeroes! Most of them! Gone!
The neighborhood was confused when it became dawn
And the sun starting shining on Bandits, who nimbly
Grabbed 83 numbers, and did it quite simply.

Then they continued to steal. They stole through October!
While the world wondered: “Are these people stoners?!”
They cleaned out that neighborhood, quick as a flash.
The neighbors were feeling like they had whiplash!
Then they kept all the ones and the zeroes for weeks.
“And NOW!” grinned the Bandits, “we’ll continue this streak!”

And the Bandits were counting the numbers at home,
While a small girl from Fishtown started to roam.
She made pictures fast, and pinned them to doors
Of the Bandit victims who deserved just a little bit more.

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Credit: Billy Penn Illustration

The Bandit had been called out by this Cindy Lou Who,
Who’d delivered some smiles to the victims all through.
She wanted to know just one question: “why?”
“Why are you taking our fair numbers? Why?”
But, you know, the Bandits were watching from afar,
They couldn’t help but agree this was all too bizarre!

They wondered what to do as the cops all closed in,
Starting to feel bad for their binary sin.
So they hatched up a plan that might make it all better
And thought “What the hell? Drop them off like a letter!”

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They puzzled three hours, till their puzzlers were sore.
Then the Bandits thought something they hadn’t before!
“Maybe the numbers,” they thought, “can’t be defaced.”
“Maybe the numbers…perhaps…can just be replaced!”
And what happened then? Well…in Kensington they say,
That the Bandit’s small hearts grew three sizes that day!

And the minute one’s heart didn’t feel quite so tight,
He whizzed with his sack to that Amber Street light,
And he brought back the ones! And all the zeroes too!
And he, he himself! The Bandit! Definitely knew.

So he stuffed them in a trash bag, which was all white
And started to feel like this would all be alright.
Someone dropped the big bag on a woman’s front stoop
That way she could help return them to the group.

And for now the Philly police are still filled with wonder
Who’d return all these digits, quicker than thunder?
In the end, the bandits had a change in their heart.
If only they’d thought of that, right from the start.

Anna Orso was a reporter/curator at Billy Penn from 2014 to 2017.