In November, the neighbors on my little dead-end street found themselves living in terror. One of our widow ladies had her house broken into in the middle of the night. Even though nobody was hurt, this single event changed every aspect of how we lived. We used to keep our street lights off or on a low setting to avoid offending our neighbors. In November the lights were so bright in the front and to the rear of our houses, you could land an airplane on our road.
One neighbor turned his dogs out in his yard. Another kept a gun next to her bed, and when she heard a noise outside, she armed herself. Just across the street from the victim's house, a young mother had her small children sleep in her room, both her and her kids were afraid. My good friend across the street confronted a big police sergeant who was doing a security check at my house, knowing we were out of town. The sergeant reminded her of the dangers of checking on suspicious activity herself and the need to call police.
This particular criminal is what old cops like me, retired now, used to call cat burglars, because they are like cats, they sneak around and you never see or hear them. Over 30 years ago, I had a chance to follow a cat burglar on foot. It is scary, dangerous and hard to do, because darkness is their friend.
In short order Chief Engler and his troops caught our cat burglar, who is a career criminal that was already on his way to prison. This is no easy feat. The men and women of the Payson Police Department had to work many long hours. Our most senior officers used their skills and street contacts to develop leads. They pressured every small-time thug in town, and shook every bush until they were able to narrow the search. Then they had to find him, which was no easy chore. These guys are not like you and me; this thief would bounce from house to house, all the while, carrying a police scanner with him. As they say "you can run, but you can't hide." He stayed here too long; he was caught after a short foot chase by the young cops. This is a good thing; our old guys find him and let the kids run him down.
Our Burglar is not just a small town punk. He made his living stealing and breaking into houses in our town. His buddy was found dead, floating in a canal in the Valley not too long ago. Being a criminal can be a dangerous business.
I would like to thank the men and women of the Payson Police Department for their caring and dedication to protecting us. While I will be enjoying time with my family on Christmas Eve, many of our 911 operators and officers will be at work, driving the streets keeping drunks under control and handling the inevitable family fight or suicidal subject calls. They will go about their duties as always, maybe they will have a potluck dinner in the break room or munch on the goodies dropped off by citizens wanting to wish them a Merry Christmas. The cop will go home, take off his belt and may try to catch a few minutes of sleep before the kids wake up. He may even have to change his baby's diaper before he settles down.
When the sun comes up, he will enjoy the festivities of the day. His kids will give him things like gum or nuts or candy, wrapped and totally taped together. As the day progresses he will know, it is time to get ready to go to work again. He will see more than his share of humanity, in all of its forms during the Christmas season and he will serve and protect and us, because that is what he does. May God bless them all.
Gordon H. Gartner