Thursday, January 31, 2013

We need cops walking our neighborhoods

Speech to Grants Pass City Council, April 20, 2011

            Last meeting, Public Safety Chief Joe Henner told us about a 6-month crime spree that hit 61 businesses and residences and included ramming up to 21 stolen cars into businesses in smash-and-grab robberies; 9 people were arrested.
            He said that they could have caught these men sooner if they had more officers on the streets at night.  Maybe if what Chief Henner has been doing for years hasn’t been working, he should try something different, something new—or better yet, something old.
            What do his officers do between calls for help from the public?  It appears that they are out patrolling the streets in their cars, “revenuing” as people call it, hunting traffic violators.  I ask you, how much can an officer see from a moving car or giving tickets?  It took a full 6 months for police to stop one of these suspects and break the case.
Remember those pre-70s movies and TV shows with cops walking neighborhood beats, not only in the city, but in the suburbs as well?  Where all the yards were well-kept, and litter didn’t just lie around until it rotted?  That world was real, and it was a result of routine enforcement of nuisance codes by every cop that walked a beat.  That world still existed in Goshen, Indiana when I went back there for a family reunion several years ago.  Their streets were a crumbling mess, but every yard and lot was groomed and litter-free.  We may look good next to many western cities, but when I lived here in the Eighties, this town reminded me of Goshen. 
Councilor DeYoung had a point, saying that a lot of theft is done by meth addicts.  Thieves do not love their neighbors, and meth addicts are known for their general neglect of themselves and their surroundings.  I have a customer who lives next to one of those recently caught thieves.  His yard is a weedy mess, spreading seeds into my customer’s yard for years.  I’m sure that at least 8 out of those 9 thieves have a yard that violates city nuisance codes regarding weeds and litter.
If our cops were out walking neighborhood beats enforcing nuisance codes, even if their beats took a week to cover, they’d quickly get to know every slovenly meth-head in the neighborhood, and their neighbors as well.  Think of how much they could see and how many crimes they could solve by getting out of their cars, gently nagging us to clean up our properties, and getting to know us, instead of being highwaymen, revenuing for the city and state.
(Correction:  8 people were arrested, according to the Courier.  This writer relied on Chief Henner’s statement at the meeting that “8 or 9 people were arrested.”)

Published at Yahoo Voices

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