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Dear Police, Just Be Honest with Us About Crime

Living in a small town that prides itself on being comfortable with leaving windows and doors unlocked is now just a dream.

I live in a small town that has recently been victim to a number of both car break-ins and home robberies this summer. Yet, until recently residents were ignorant of it. According to sources, those town officials who did know did not want to cause a panic.

In one of those incidents, a resident’s home was entered through a sliding back door which had been left unlocked. Many items were taken and with them the safety and security of the homeowner’s state of mind. When the discovery was made, two on-duty police officers were quick with their response time and she says she was told there had been other break-ins around town.  

This homeowner was rightly upset over the invasion of her home, the theft of her property and the violation of her privacy. Her teenage daughter couldn’t sleep, laid awake terrified anticipating the burglars return. She asked herself over and over: How did this happen in such a small town? And why didn’t she know about the other recent home invasions? Until now, most people felt comfortable leaving their doors and windows unlocked, especially during the long and breezy summer days.  

Now, any parent would take extra protective measures after such a violation of safety. Among such measures was the act of reaching out to neighbors to alert them to lock their doors and windows.

After posting her experience on her Facebook wall, within minutes she had nearly forty comments from neighbors and other town people. There was an immediate connection. Other residents began listing their own robbery experience and others they knew who had also been robbed. She was no longer alone. 

Whether there were five, 10, 15 or 20 robberies, how is it, that we as residents, didn’t know about a single one? Why find out through social media or our neighbors instead of through the people who we pay to protect us?  What is wrong with this picture?  There must be a better solution to this problem.

Phone calls were made to a few town officials, but the woman felt she received little support and encouragement. She was made to feel as if she was overreacting. I disagree. I grew up believing police leaders were there to Serve and Protect. You think the mindset would be, “Not on my watch,” or “Not in my town.”  

There were conflicting reports as to how many robberies had occurred in town over the summer. The woman decided to ask a few questions and discovered that if a taxpaying citizen wants to know exactly how many robberies occurred in their community, through the Freedom of Information Act, it is their legal right to know. But should taxpayers have to file legal requests to find out the police activity in town? I don’t think so.

Since most people in town knew what happened, I began asking their thoughts on the situation. Some felt her back door should have been locked. Some felt she was overreacting. Some felt the chief of police might be manipulating the number of robberies so residents won’t panic. Yet, the most common response I received was the necessity of informing residents of such incidents. 

After looking into it, some other local police departments post a daily log online. This is a simple and convenient way to communicate information to residents. Everything was listed from traffic stops to burglaries. It can even be done at a level of confidentiality; street names were listed (not house numbers), names were not mentioned for traffic stops, etc.  It was purely informational.  

If the community knows of such frequency (or infrequency) of robberies or any other criminal behavior, we can better protect ourselves and our neighbors.  If residents had known of these robberies in town, I believe more precaution for their own home protection would have been taken. By keeping it mute and under wraps, it only makes matters worse.  

Someone I know was burglarized. I can choose to keep the peace, smile, agree with others, even if I don’t. Or, I can venture off the manicured path, take a risk and speak what’s echoed in the hallways. If you live in a small town, doing either can be difficult.  

Christine September 03, 2012 at 03:27 PM
Okay--but what is this situation? Is it 20 burglaries like some have reported but police have denied? Is it a few as the police have confirmed? The "unnecessary panic'" is the reports stating that it has been 20-30 incidents. Hey--if it is indeed confirmed that it IS 20+ incidents--then yes, that is unusual and could generate much fear understandably. As of now, the numbers are conjecture. The point is is that town officials need to speak up.
Cassie September 03, 2012 at 03:31 PM
Indeed they do!
Patricia Gaglioti September 03, 2012 at 04:38 PM
You're right on, Cami. In our community the police reports are reported in the local newspaper every publication. It helps inform us. I'd be curious to know if effective police action was taken and diligent investigations were made. We're the intruders found?
Chris Clapp September 03, 2012 at 07:47 PM
Disciplinary action or removal of the official which chose to suppress the information.
Ben Rodriguez September 03, 2012 at 11:56 PM
Good blog. there should be a way to give residents/tax payers a heads up on items of safety.

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