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Editorial: Neighbors, not Big Brother, have eye on criminals

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IT’S tough being a criminal these days.

While there are still those who obviously feel otherwise, the risks of getting caught after breaking the law have become greater in this community as local police have been receiving assistance from a number of sources.

Consider these recent arrests:

  • May 7: A Columbus woman was arrested on charges involving a series of wallet and purse thefts after her photo from surveillance video was published in The Republic. That in turn prompted several people who recognized her to provide information to the Columbus police.
  • May 27: North Vernon Police arrested a man on auto theft charges, but only after his whereabouts were phoned into police by a Jennings County resident who saw the suspect walking in the area. The man had been involved in an auto chase with police earlier but had managed to escape his pursuers on foot.
  • June 6: Store surveillance photos from a Columbus business of a man suspected of using a stolen credit card to make thousands of dollars in purchases were circulated by police and run online by The Republic. Local residents who recognized the individual provided police with valuable information about his identity.

Central to these and many other cases is public cooperation. Local police have made it a priority to encourage the public to become involved without endangering themselves by reporting leads to authorities. This has been a pro-active approach in which officers go neighborhood by neighborhood, meeting with residents and asking for their assistance by being alert to unusual circumstances and what is going on around them.

The age of electronics has certainly been a positive factor, as noted in two of the cases above. Suspects in those instances were identified through store surveillance cameras, which have become a presence in day-to-day life.

Circulating those images has also become more pervasive as police are able to use a variety of sources to disseminate photos. Those images not only assist in making identifications but can be used in prosecuting criminal cases when they come to trial.

The lesson to be learned from this is that criminals should be on notice that someone is likely watching them.

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