Bava Metzia 83b records that R’ Elazar son of R’ Shimon approached a Roman officer and asked him how he is successful at catching crafty criminals (citing a passuk to that effect). The guard asked him for advice, and this was R’ Elazar’s response:

עול בארבע שעי לחנותא כי חזית איניש דקא שתי חמרא וקא נקיט כסא בידיה וקא מנמנם שאול עילויה אי צורבא מרבנן הוא וניים אקדומי קדים לגרסיה אי פועל הוא קדים קא עביד עבידתיה ואי עבידתיה בליליא רדודי רדיד ואי לא גנבא הוא ותפסיה

Go at four hours in the day to the inn. If you see someone drinking wine, holding his cup, and dozing, ask about him. If he’s a Torah scholar, he’s dozing because he got up early to learn. If he’s a craftsman, he got up early to work. If he works at night, he thins out metals. If he’s none of them, he’s a thief, and you should grab him.

That’s an awfully incomplete list. Maybe he has a sleep disorder, like narcolepsy. (I see no reason to assume this is a new phenomenon that people have this.) How can he be so certain that people who aren’t craftsmen, scholars, or night workers must be thieves?

  • I think you forgot to mention the following Gemmorah that tells that he was criticized for that, and he doubted his conclusions also, until the Heavens proved him right. – Al Berko Mar 7 at 22:23
  • @AlBerko He wasn’t criticized for his method, but rather the fact that he was getting involved at all. He only doubted that one case because he had him arrested on a moment of anger, that he had insulted him; that man wasn’t arrested for sleeping in an inn during the day. – DonielF Mar 7 at 22:42
  • THen "when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth? Sherlock Holmes in The Sign of the Four (Doubleday p. 111) – Al Berko Mar 7 at 23:11
  • @AlBerko ...how is that applicable here? – DonielF Mar 8 at 0:39
  • Just kidding, a bit of deductive reasoning, I guess. – Al Berko Mar 8 at 11:04

Rabbi Elazar's method of idenifying criminal doesn't need to be foolproof, rather it just needs to be better than the current standard of catching criminals to be worthwhile. This is not a Torah question.

  • You mean אמדנא דמוכח - just a Svarah. Why not? – Al Berko Mar 7 at 22:24
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    Given that his whole point is that he might catch good people instead of thieves, this plan seemingly doesn’t help anybody. Why can’t I ask a question on a Gemara that’s not a halachic question? – DonielF Mar 7 at 22:37

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