Sunday, May 21, 2006

Busybodies in My Area - Coming to You Soon?

Back when I was working for county government as a permit inspector, I would frequently take calls from citizens wanting to rat out their neighbors for encroaching into the county drain easements. Mainly, if someone didn't like the neighbor's new fence, tree, pole barn, or kiddie playset, rather than talk to their neighbor about it, they would try to sic the government on them.

This is one way I kept myself sane while working in county government. I would ask the complaintant if they were asking me to enforce the easements in the area. They would say yes. I would reply that we would be starting by looking at their property, and then get to the neighbor. Invariably, the complaintant would become indignant. Mainly, they had encroachments, too.

When those without sin cast the first stone, few rocks fly. Undeterred in Carmel, where some people have far too little to do, housewives are now shooting radar and taking license plate info. From today's Indy Star:
Stahly and Heck -- stay-at-home moms and part-time community activists -- are recruits in a growing campaign against that ever-constant source of anxiety in America's suburbs: the speeding neighbor.

None of the dozen or so drivers they record going faster than 25 mph will get a ticket. But they will get a friendly letter from the Carmel Police Department, reminding them to slow down in the neighborhood.

It's great if people want to take action to get people to behave a little more responsibly where a real problem exists. Are people zipping through 25 mph zones at 60? Sure, get their attention by flagging them down. But become an extention of the Police Department? I'm not alone with raised eyebrow:
Also, some legal experts question the wisdom of extending even limited police powers to the public.

"I think it is a little bit offensive," said Indianapolis attorney Will Gooden, whose criminal practice includes defending clients fighting traffic citations. "I just have a general concern about extending the police power. It's sort of a slope you start down. What will regular citizens do next for the police?"

Check out these exchanges. It really smells of busybody rat-out-your-neighbor nonsense that belongs in the fading memories of the Soviet Union:
"Red van going 33," said Stahly. "Blue van, too. Is that Nancy again?"
Heck looked up from her clipboard.
"No, that's Pam. And she knows what we're doing."

and

Stahly said she plays no favorites as she aims her radar gun down the block. A familiar white vehicle is speeding in her direction.

"Oh, look. He's going 32. The mailman is going 32," she said. "I didn't think they go that fast."

Heck was excited.

"I'll get him. It's a government vehicle. The police like getting them."


Great. Well, they say my home town of Fishers in considering this program. I'd really love to see the day when our officials leave police work to police, and where neighbors actually talk to each other about perceived problems rather than relying upon police power to do all the talking for them. For my money, I'd rather see the Fishers polic doing something about all these robberies at local gas stations and pharmacies. I guess that's just how I prioritize things.

It will be intersting if this program comes to suburban Fort Wayne. It never exists anywhere but the suburbs, because in most cities, they have real crimes to solve.

-Mike Kole

2 comments:

Robert Enders said...

I actually prefer living in a lower income neighborhood for that reason. I was warned about Chestnut St when I was considering renting this house. When I first moved into it in 2000, I found a shotgun in the back yard. About the only thing that has happened to me crime wise is that I had a bicycle stolen. Of course I am a security guard, so that probably deters crooks from picking on me. If I ever go into another line of work, I think I'll put a copy of the 2nd Amendment in my window. That should keep the boogeyman away.
Seriously though, probably everyone in my neighborhood fits into at least one of the following categories:
1. has a job and doesn't have time for that kind of nonsence.
2. receives disability payments, and if you can't hold a job, you can't hold a radar gun
3. is an actual criminal, and wants as little contact with the police as possible

It will probably be places like Aboite Township where you might see things like Teri Hatcher trying to right down your plate number as you cruise along at 5 mph over the limit.

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