Oh I am quite certain nearly every law enforcement officer has heard, “Don’t you have anything better to do?! “Why aren’t you out catching murderers or rapists?!”
And Yes. I am also quite certain that most of us would welcome taking predators and murders out of the communities we serve everyday. (Although that would imply that in the city I serve, we would have 1000s of them amongst the 120 odd thousand population) No doubt about it. Those types of arrests are satisfying, invigorating and what many of us signed up to do. Or had illusions we were signing up to do.
Truth is though, in between the gun toting gang members, rapists and child molesters, there are so many other demands. How ’bout all those who prey on every pharmacy, bookstore, electronics and grocery store in town and steal. All shift long, every shift of the week. Scattered in the stacks of calls for police services, are the thieves. And woweee, thieves take up so much time. (yes, it is that time people blame us for not spending on the “more important things” we should be doing) Cosmetics, razors, shampoo, body wash, baby formula, batteries, meat, pasta, wine, and hard liquor. You name it, someone has stolen it.
When I was the PIO (Public Information Officer) I would review dozens of police reports looking for interesting tidbits. Quirky stories. Fodder for slow news days. Burglaries and shoplifting are sometimes entertaining. The woman who tried to get away with 5 pounds of steak and 8 pounds of shrimp in her pants. Surf and turf dinner party tonight? The guy who took Preparation H, Medamucil and Immodium. Yes. For real. No joke. You name it, someone has stolen it.
Then there are the loss prevention staff whose job it is to spot the “people behaving badly.” Some of them take up even more police time than the shoplifters. These motivated security employees will run after suspects for blocks and blocks. They will call 911 yelling into cell phones, all out of breath and barely understandable. Some will tackle thieves over a couple cans of Red Bull and a bag of beef jerky. I’d like to generalize and say these security guards are wanna be cops, but that doesn’t always ring true. Too much media, maybe too many video games? “Sergeant, I saw the perpetrator take the product off the shelf and conceal it in his pants. I pursued the perpetrator on foot and apprehended him.” Who talks like that?! I have never uttered the word perpetrator except when telling a story like this one. I often worry for these guys. Only takes a gun or knife in the hands of one of these “perpetrators” to change the story.
What else takes police time, you ask? Oh, falls on city property, welfare checks, abandoned cars, found _____ (fill in the blank), alarms – cars, houses, businesses, traffic hazards, mental health. Blah blah.
AND yes – gun toting gang members, if we are lucky. Or it is unlucky?