Monday, August 10, 2009

"'Michigan City Crime Report' - A Random Sampling"

The following is a selected smattering of the criminal activity in the Michigan City, Indiana, area over the past two weeks, as reported in the local newspaper, the News Dispatch.

There were admittedly some more serious infractions – “batteries”, “break-ins” and “failures to appear” – there was also, as I mentioned before I left, three-convicts on the loose from the nearby Indiana State Prison.

(One of the escapees was a convicted forger-murderer, which, to me, seems like an unusual resume. Forging in an artistic activity, whereas murder is considerably more brutal. It’s not copying a signature; it’s making somebody dead. I just can’t imagine the same person committing both those offences. Was it like, “This isn’t your handwriting.” – Bam? There’s something funny there.

Anyway, the three convicts were eventually recaptured, one of them near the mayor’s country home. What was that guy thinking? “I voted for you. Would you hide me”?

(Before I leave the convicted murders, I’d like to mention that a young woman named Jennifer, who was giving me a massage at the time, offered her opinion on the escape: “They knew they were going to get caught again. They just wanted to have some fun.” My view on this differs. I believe they wanted to not be in prison anymore. But, you know, Jennifer’s from the area, and perhaps she knows better.)


Interspersed among the more serious infractions in the daily police report, were these. I present them to give you some sense of the place I recently visited, a place that felt such items worthy of printing in the newspaper:

Reported stolen: A gallon of orange juice and two bags of potato chips…

A report of an “egging”…

“…Charged was a thirteen year-old boy for being uncontrollable.” (Is there an actual legal description of what it means to be “uncontrollable”? “I’ve got him…no I don’t. I’ve got him…no, I don’t.” If that happens, I don’t know, like three times, is the kid automatically deemed to be “uncontrollable”? What if he’s just wearing a lot of sunscreen, and he just keeps slithering away? Of course, in deference to the police, I wasn’t the one trying to bring the kid under control. He could have been a real handful.)

“…Missing were a set of keys, a key chain, and some pruning shears…”

After a theft report, “…A refrigerator and a garden hose were found at a neighbor’s residence.”

“A fifteen year-old boy was arrested at 10 a.m. at the police station after he wrote his full name above a police station toilet while he was being held.” (Without knowing the local ordinances, it appears as if the boy had only written his first name or just his initials above the police station toilet, he might have been in the clear.)

There’s one more story that was either too long or too important for the “Police Report” column, so it was reported as a separate story.

A woman’s erratic driving precipitated a four-car collision. To quote the article, the woman “immediately admitted to being the cause of the accident, saying she had reached to her 3 year-old daughter who was trying to get out of her car seat”, momentarily taking her eyes off the road.

So far, I’m with her. Sympathetic, even.

The trouble was the woman “smelled of alcohol and was swaying back and forth.” The woman reported “she hadn’t been drinking, and said the open beer bottle on the passenger side floor board happened as a result of the crash.”

Well, that’s possible, I suppose. But then…

The woman “allegedly said that the crash had caused numerous closed containers of alcohol to break open.”


The article ends by saying that, after tests showed a blood alcohol level of more than double the legal limit, the woman changed her story and admitted she’d been drinking.

I don’t know. If she’d stuck to her guns, she just might have pulled it off.

So much for a taste of small town criminality. Tomorrow: “Michiana Memories – The Summer of ’09.” A little teaser?

Downed power lines will be involved.

In fact, they’ll be involved twice.

And not the same power lines.


diane said...

I'm trying to work on the ability to view everyday things and find the "funny" in them. I'm grateful for the lessons in your blog.

A. Buck Short said...

I have the ability to take everyday funny things and make them disturbing.

One never knows when these innocuous police blotter incidents can have national implications. If you'll bear with me, today’s passing of Eunice Kennedy Shriver reminded me of one example.

About 36 years ago, under the misimpression that I might have been some sort of intellectual, I was employed to write “editorials” to be delivered by the owner of a group of radio stations. (Never having met an intellectual, he had been easily misled). When, after two weeks, it became apparent that the two of us couldn’t agree upon two things in the entire world, I was unceremoniously relocated to the news desk.

The routine was to get in about 5a.m., look through the Boston Globe and Herald Traveler for local news to compliment what was coming over the wire, and then to start calling the desk sergeants at about a dozen area small town police departments to see if anything newsworthy had happened since the previous day’s inquiry. Generally the best one could hope for was a B&E-nighttime – although since perps were rarely ever actually apprehended, the stories usually consisted of nothing more than a list of missing personal items and the time of day this had come to the homeowner’s attention.

The Cohasset, Massachusetts desk sergeant turned me over to the town’s dog officer, Brian Cogill, who had been called to the home of a woman who complained, and I am quoting here, “A large bird had landed in her yard and wouldn’t go away.”

Nobody could figure out what to do with it, so Officer Cogill took the bird back home with him to his own family. Apparently nobody else read the Boston Globe – or at least had the ability to incorporate the paper’s contents into anything approaching a system of deductive reasoning. Of the dozen people with whom I spoke that morning, I was apparently the only one who remembered a front page photo in that weekend’s Globe, captioned something to the effect: “Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. has his arm in a cast after falling out of a tree trying to retrieve his pet falcon at the family compound in Hyannisport.”

I immediately leapt to a conclusion – fortunately not injuring one of my own limbs in that process. The most logical “newsworthy assumption was that the bird had, for reasons known only to itself and perhaps one or two close personal raptors, flown 50 miles northeast in a straight line along the coast until finally requiring a rest stop somewhere in the “Greater Cohasset” area. (A more appropriate sojourn might have been a few miles up the coast in Quincy, home of the nation’s first Howard Johnson’s—but I guess when you’ve got to pull over, you’ve got to pull over.) The timeframe seemed just about right for the flight.

I called Sen. Kennedy’s office in Boston with the message, “Uh, I think I found the kid’s bird,” and then provided contact information for the Cohasset dog officer. That afternoon after a 50 mile ride from Hyannis, three Kennedy Cousins – RFK Jr., Bobby Shriver, and Chris Lawford – piled out of a cab to retrieve the bird in question and return happily with it in the cab ride home.

Unfortunately, the logistics of our station rarely allowed one to actually leave the building to actually cover news, so I opted for the next best thing – dialing the Cogill’s and grilling them mercilessly as to what had transpired during their brush with celebrity: “Who came to get the bird? What time did they get the there? What had you been doing with the bird until they arrived? Ornithologically speaking, was it relatively well-behaved? Did it have a name? Were they excited that someone had found the bird so quickly? Were they happy to see the bird? Was the bird happy to see them? Are you going to miss the bird?”

My UPI voicer, “A Boy and his Bird,” went national. Plus the wire service paid me $15. Ed Murrow eat your heart out.

A. Buck Short said...

A month of two later, another Boston Globe front page photo: Robert Kennedy, Jr., Bobby Shriver, and Chris Lawford being led into Hyannis’ Barnstable County Courthouse by law enforcement officers on marijuana possession and use charges. Buried deep in the story was an account of the aforementioned Cross-Cape Cab Caper, during which the three cousins had allegedly “experimented” with said substance in the vehicle to and from the bird’s retrieval.

Unfortunately, as it turned out, the cab driver on both legs of the journey had been an undercover Hyannis narcotics supernumerary, assigned to monitor the beaches all summer for exactly that sort of activity. The cousins had apparently been under surveillance, and it was not enough to get high before making a quick stop at a cop’s house – you had to be driven their by another cop as well. After much media concern as to whether or not the young men would receive any “special treatment” because of their connections – they did not – everything seemed to have been resolved fairly, although I can’t remember how.

I opted not to file a UPI follow-up – “How I got Bobby Kennedy Busted” -- even for another $15. Years later I struck up a friendship with one of the earliest Boston comedy “shock jocks” named Andy Moes, and only sometime after that learned that Andy had been the undercover cab driver who had facilitated the righteous collar.