The following item, verbatim and reprinted in its entirety, comes from the Skagway (Alaska) News police blotter:
"Officers responded to a complaint of an intoxicated foul-mouthed person in the downtown area. It turned out the caller was the intoxicated foul-mouthed person. She was given a ride home."
While I deplore the actions of the hardened criminals behind the crime wave that grips Skagway, I do applaud their participation in the town's Self-Reporting Lawbreakers Program, which should be a model for the nation.
Here's how it works:
CROOK: I'd like to report a burglary in progress.
POLICE: Are you sure?
CROOK: Well, I guess so, seeing as how I'm the one committing the burglary.
POLICE: No need to get sarcastic. We just need to check before we send out an officer.
CROOK: I know, but you said it like you don't believe me. Just because I'm a burglar doesn't mean I'm not a good citizen.
POLICE: OK, sorry. Where are you?
CROOK: I'm on Main Street.
POLICE: Where on Main Street?
CROOK: Oh, shoot. I forget to check before I broke in. Hold on a minute.
POLICE: Oh, come on. Don't you know to at least check the address before you call the police?
CROOK: It's my first one, all right? I've got a lot on my mind ... um, let's see, yeah, I'm at 322 South Main Street.
POLICE: OK, we'll swing by to pick you up.
CROOK: Wait, I plan to make a run for it. I'm allowed to do that and still participate in the program, right?
POLICE: Yes, of course. So where you headed?
CROOK: I'm going to go down Main Street, then cut through the Smiths' yard over to State Street.
POLICE: Well, you could, I suppose, but the Smiths have a pretty high fence in back and they have a dog. You'd be better off cutting through the Robinsons'.
CROOK: Good point. OK, so I'll cut through the Robinsons' and then, oh I don't know, I'll probably just panic and run around in circles.
POLICE: Sounds like a plan. We'll see you soon.
See how easy that is? Too often, in towns large and small, we have a failure to communicate between police and the criminals. There's a lot of mistrust on both sides.
The idea is to start small. Meet with some of the town's troublemakers and invite them to self-report their drunken, obnoxious behavior.
Once that part of the program is up and running smoothly, towns can meet with more serious criminals, such as bank robbers.
Not that this program is a panacea. Another item in the Skagway police blotter that week reads, "A man reported that person(s) unknown had kicked his truck and left dents."
Apparently, in this case, the miscreant failed to report his offense, which -- when he is caught -- could get him kicked out of the town's Self-Reporting Lawbreakers Program.
And if I were on the Skagway police force, I wouldn't even give him a ride home.
Write to Don Flood in care of King Features Weekly Service, P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475.