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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.  

John S September 04, 2012 at 12:12 AM
Perhaps it is easier to complain on Patch about a lack of communication and minimal publication of incidents in town and point the finger onto the municipality than it is to actually look right on your town's page like http://vernon.patch.com/columns/police-calls for everything that has happened. Doesn't appear to be any necessity for legal forms to be filed to find that here.
Chris Dehnel September 04, 2012 at 12:40 AM
Just a note ... the author lives in Suffield and her column circulates in Vernon and yes, Vernon police not only provide a daily call log to Vernon Patch but an daily arrest log.
Jim G. September 04, 2012 at 02:06 AM
Yet another reason Patch really needs to flag articles and blogs as to locality. The "blind inclusion" model for regions just confuses everyone.
Mike Sikoski September 04, 2012 at 10:29 AM
This whole "opinion" article fits Mansfield CT to a "T". If you hear someones house was broken into, ask the neighbor two doors down if he heard anything about their neighbors house being burglarized, you do not hear anything about burglaries until there is an arrest. By then six of your friend have been victimized too.
MD Reed September 04, 2012 at 01:44 PM
Often times in small communities politics will control what kind of ralationship the police have with their residents or the kind of information they release. It makes sense for the police to release the information as it may help prevent additional crime. However, if the elected official (mayor, 1st selectman, etc) says don't put out that kind of information because it may "scare" people or "make our community look bad", then the police chief's hands are somewhat tied. It seems to me that it would be best to get the information in the public's hands and let them decide how best to protect themselves and their property. PLUS, what's wrong with letting the community know that the officers are actually doing police work.

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