DEAR ABBY: I'm a deputy sheriff. Last week, I was in a department store outside my jurisdiction and overheard a conversation between two of the clerks. One of them had her car broken into the night before, and several valuable items and her house key had been stolen. This woman said she didn't call the police because there was nothing they could do.
I identified myself as a deputy and told her she should contact her police department immediately for the following reasons:
(1) She was a victim of a crime. Her house key was taken by someone who had already demonstrated that he or she was a criminal. If the perpetrator came back and robbed her house, or worse yet, harmed her, the police would have more to go on to solve that crime. (I also advised her to have her locks changed immediately.)
(2) Her car may not have been the only one broken into. If a pattern was developing, the police could increase patrols in her area. But they couldn't know to do it if the incident went unreported.
(3) In the course of serving search warrants or making other arrests, we often find property that obviously doesn't belong to the suspect. (After all, who owns multiple TV sets, stereos, DVD players, digital cameras, etc.?) But if nobody reports a theft, we have no way of knowing whose property it is. Without that knowledge, we can't return property to its rightful owner, nor can we charge the suspect with additional crimes.
(4) Suspects often pawn what they steal. Our detectives regularly check pawn shops for items that have been reported stolen and can recover them for the owner as well as pay a visit to whoever sold them. Many crimes have been solved in this manner.
Please, Abby, urge your readers to report all crimes of which they are victims. Even if it appears the police are taking little action, they are, in fact, doing far more than is readily apparent. -- DEPUTY PETER N. SPAGNOLO, PAYETTE, IDAHO
DEAR DEPUTY SPAGNOLO: Your message is important, and I'm printing your letter as written with no editing. Although there is no guarantee that anyone won't become a crime victim, we do not have to take it in silence. As my third-grade teacher used to say, "The policeman is your friend." If we do not report a crime when one has been committed, then the bad guys have already won.