: Like one of our century's greatest crime writers said: "I love the romance of crime, and I wonder does anybody feel the way I do?" That great crime writer, of course, is Morrissey and, yes, to answer your question, Morrissey, I absolutely do feel the way you do. A certain morbid curiosity about crime is, after all, one of the few silver linings of living in a place where the per capita crime rate rivals even the shystiest hellhole corners of the country. So that’s our topic for the week, crime reporting.
: From calls about shirtless teen boys raising hell to livestock on the loose to suspicious looking vehicles, the beat of a city can be seen through its police blotter. Even better when a newspaper publisher allows the charm and humor of the reporter to make comments, like the down home folksiness of the Lovely County Citizen
in Eureka Springs:
6:26 a.m. July 13: An employee at a hotel could not get a dog out of a pond.
11:33 a.m.: An officer filed a report on theft of medication.
4:19 a.m. July 14: A caller reported feeling someone had a put a hit out on him, but an officer found no suspicious people after searching the man's hotel room. Hey, we kind of feel that way too sometimes. ...
To the absolute grit, brutality and snarkiness of the Phnom Penh Post’s
Sept. 19: "Here’s Johnny!" routine ends poorly for burglar: A would-be break-in artist should have brought more than an axe to deal with the vigilantes in the capital’s Tuol Kork district on Thursday. Police said the 30-year-old thought no one was home when he took the edged instrument to the door. Little did he know, the homeowner was inside watching on CCTV. He called for help, and a mob assembled at record speed and bashed the suspect senseless before police could extricate him. He’s now been sent to court.
: That’s a real LiveLeak type situation right there.
: Perhaps the best of them was the Northwest Arkansas Crime Report
. All of these read like something an MFA student would wish to write but never could. A short sampling:
4:14 p.m.: A woman at 508 Mountain View Ave. reported "a sneaky man who knows how to talk real good" stole her tax refund and her child's bicycle.
6:22 p.m.: A man at 1528 N. Porter Road reported someone placed a sign in his tree that read "vet". It may be the same person who stole his race car the previous day, the caller said.
8:51 p.m.: A caller at 1616 N. College Ave. reported a man in a wig tried to buy cigarettes with a broken credit card that wasn't his. The caller said the man's name was Nathaniel Hawthorne.
1:43 a.m.: A caller on West Center Street and South Hill Avenue reported several children outside hollering and making noise by banging trash cans together. They also moved a toilet into the middle of the street, the caller said.
2:36 a.m.: A caller at 2300 N. College Ave. reported a large fight involving about 15 people. The fight originated, the caller said, because someone spilled a Coke.
: That was truly the golden age of police reporting in Fayetteville. Every single person who saw the Virgin Mary in the laundry room of their apartment complex as well as everyone who ended up mysteriously covered in gasoline on College Ave. made it into the Fayetteville police beat then. John Mark Boling, an Arkansan now living in NYC, put that website together. This is what he said of his time collecting crime reporting’s greatest hits: “I tried to be discerning. Ninety-nine percent of the reported crimes were either depressing, boring or theft of copper wiring from construction sites.
"I was going for the 1 percent that seemed like writing prompts from a creative writing seminar … My favorites were probably the youths, they were always up to no good … fabulous no good.
"Lycanthropy and possible werewolves were a theme. Of course, booze, weed and meth also played their parts. Nudity, neighbors, cars, guns, and you know ... just the stuff of America and humanity.”
: This may be the finest short story written about Fayetteville. It reads like a Cormac McCarthy story he started but then became too afraid of where it might lead:
3:20 p.m. A woman and man at Hilltop Inn at 3601 S. Thompson St. reported that several people come to the hotel several times a month and unload baby formula off of a truck. They have been coming up from Texas once or twice a month for the past year and always drive a white van, stay for a couple days and leave with several cases of Enfamil and other items. The man reported that about six months ago, the individuals left $3,000 under the mattress in the room they stayed in and came back later that day to pick up the money. Two women rented the room on April 6, and on April 7 there were about 12 or 13 people in the motel room, the callers said. They loaded several cases of Enfamil and other items, and the callers noticed the group was very cautious and seemed very paranoid while loading the items in the van. When the callers looked into the room, there were several items of clothing from Walmart with the price tags still on them and several price tag attachments scattered over the room.
: Little Rock’s crime reporting, with the occasional exception of Forbidden Hillcrest, is somewhat lacking. Encrypted police scanners, a 30 minute delay on dispatch notices — if you want to know about what crimes are happening around you, your best bet is to either go out and do some crime yourself, or stand still and wait for something to happen to you.
One thing Central Arkansas does well, however, is shame arrested people into oblivion. Many hours I have spent poring through the Right2Know
mugshots watching friend and foe alike get swept up into whatever rattletrap Rube Goldberg device passes for a justice system around here. I think about these people. What were they doing to get there? How bad are they, really? Why is their hair like that? How much did that sweet diamond neck tattoo cost?
: The morbid curiosity you mentioned earlier is very strong. I have a strong belief that most people would rather read the news about the quirks and embarrassments within their neighborhood than read the hard and good work that goes into reporting on the Capitol every day. I will gladly read through 10/10 of my free articles a month to check Alex Kienlen’s Police Beat
at the Log Cabin Democrat.
: I sort of understand that, though. The Capitol is an alien place for many people, full of powerful people doing ill-understood legislative procedures sometimes in secret. It can seem impossible to control or even interfere in that world aside from the abstraction that is voting.
Your neighbor, on the other hand, is the devil you know. When they get led out in handcuffs, you get to stand barefoot in the street, in your boxers, in October, and watch it all go down live in public.
: Getting back to the heart of the police beat: Through this lens we can see the attitudes, priorities and hopes and fears of each community. Big questions: How do people choose to live? What causes people to insert themselves into a situation and make a call? Is it seeing a stranger wearing nothing but a pair of cutoff jean shorts walking through the neighborhood, covered completely in Vaseline? Is there danger? Is it the sound of teenagers having a bottle rocket war, or is it the lingering smell of marijuana smoke?
: Speaking of making calls. I actually tried to game the Fayetteville police reporting years ago. I was trying to call in some complaints to make the beat on behalf of my hog-loving vampire alter ego, Razorbackula. I don’t know how they saw through the ruse but I didn’t make the editorial cut. It’s like they can sense who is genuinely concerned about people being vampires and who is just playing.
: One of the places where we can see this focus on community is within the Hot Springs Village Voice
, a place where there is nothing but safety, time and the absence of Millennial Americans. Please enjoy this look at America’s favorite place to retire, play golf, go off your medications and lecture the local population about what REAL AMERICA looks like:
A resident reported a threatening condition saying he fell asleep in front of the TV and upon awakening discovered “fuzz balls” around his TV in addition to pen scribblings in the face of Jesus. The officer attempted to calm the man, showing him identical fuzz balls on the floor and the presence of pens. During the explanation, the resident poked the officer in the chest. When told by the officer not to touch him, the man dismissed the officer with foul language. The officer noted the presence of alcohol.
An Alarcon Way resident reported a man sitting in his neighbor’s car for three days. An officer found a fully dressed mannequin wearing sunglasses in the car. The car’s owner said the mannequin’s name was “Ben” and that he makes her feel safe on journeys. The officer thanked the woman for the explanation and, in turn, explained Ben to the resident reporting him.
: Yet another sad story of mannequinamericans being profiled and harassed: An officer on patrol stopped a pickup truck after witnessing the driver cross the center line repeatedly. The driver presented an expired Arkansas driver’s license. When told his driver’s license was expired, he presented a Texas driver’s license, found to be valid. The officer told the man that it was illegal to possess driver’s licenses from two different states, to which the man responded, “I’m not surprised by the way the law goes these days.” His Arkansas license was confiscated and reported.
: Ah, and that just is the way the law goes these days. So until you see us on the Right2Know for interfering with that mannequin with the fuzz balls and the alcohol, that’s it for us this week. Stay free Arkansas.
: I’m not surprised by the length this column goes these days.