Between the Lines: Finding human foibles in the police log

<p> If you&rsquo;re a regular reader of this newspaper, no doubt you have at least occasionally looked at the police logs &mdash; those summaries of the human foibles around the county.</p><p> I take a perverse comfort in reading these accounts. No matter how badly I&rsquo;ve behaved on a particular day, no matter how disagreeable or inconsiderate I&rsquo;ve been, it never rises to the level of the someone taking American flags from the town green. Or those people who steal license plates and use them to obscure their identities so they can pump gas and then drive off without paying.</p><p> Drive-offs, it seems, are a particularly popular activity.</p><p> It got so bad at one local gas station, in fact, that the police chief recently threatened to stop responding to drive-off complaints from the station, because the owners wouldn&rsquo;t install a pre-pay system on the pumps.</p><p> If nothing else, reading police logs gives one a heightened sense of sympathy for what law officers have to deal with on a regular basis, from the unpleasant to the simply strange.</p><p> Middlebury and Vermont State Police, for example, investigated a 2011 report of a despondent man who threatened to kill himself &mdash; on top of Camel&rsquo;s Hump mountain.</p><p> They searched in vain for the guy, to deter him from offing himself.&nbsp; He eventually turned up, alive, in Massachusetts.</p><p> Maybe he had a better time hiking Camel&rsquo;s Hump than he&rsquo;d thought he would.</p><p> Last fall, Bristol police investigated the supposed abandonment of a dog in Lincoln, because the dog was said to have urinated on someone&rsquo;s carpet. At last report, officers were trying to determine if a dog that had been found in Ripton was the same dog. The log made no mention about the fate of the carpet.</p><p> Three days later, Bristol police were looking into a report from a woman who claimed a man was calling her to say she had his dog locked up in her closet. She later told officers the call was &ldquo;placed to her in error.&rdquo;</p><p> Maybe it was all the same dog &mdash; peeing on carpets, getting locked up in closets, and getting lost in Ripton? We&rsquo;ll never know.</p><p> Sometimes the extent of one person&rsquo;s low-level criminal activity is astounding: multiple arrest warrants, traffic convictions, DUI&rsquo;s, or all-around bad behavior.</p><p> The current local record appears to be held by a Ferrisburgh man who was cited for driving with a criminally suspended license. Looking at the files, Vermont State Police realized the same guy had been charged a reported 52 times for various offenses involving driving without a proper license.</p><p> Say what you want about this guy&rsquo;s behavior, but it&rsquo;s clear he was determined to be behind the wheel.</p><p> The logs routinely contain reports of drivers being cited for possession of small amounts of marijuana. But the documented alcohol-related offenses appear to be much more serious.</p><p> A Brandon resident, for example, was cited in Bristol last summer for driving under the influence of alcohol. The driver was found dozing at the wheel of his car and blocking traffic &mdash; while parked at a traffic light.</p><p> The news account said the driver had &ldquo;apparently stopped at the traffic signal, placed the car in neutral, put his foot on the brake and taken a nap in the middle of the road.&rdquo;</p><p> Not surprisingly, his blood alcohol level turned out to be more than twice the legal limit. Time of the incident? Six in the morning.</p><p> Another Brandon resident was cited for DUI by state police, when he pulled his vehicle behind a closed business &ldquo;to allow a passenger of his car to vomit.&rdquo; An eagle-eyed inspector from Liquor Control spotted the incident and alerted state police.</p><p> You have to wonder, too, about whether alcohol was involved in a New Haven incident, in which a Maine man was found parked in front of a closed retail store while asleep at the wheel with the engine running. Despite the evidence, the man denied all involvement and even claimed someone else &mdash; not on the scene &mdash; was driving the car. Eventually he acknowledged culpability.</p><p> It&rsquo;s clear this paper&rsquo;s editors had a bit of fun with the incident, bannering it with what has to be regarded as a serious contender for Headline of the Year: &ldquo;Man in driver&rsquo;s seat eventually admits he is the driver.&rdquo;</p><p> One occasionally finds animal-related incident in the logs, too: a deer blind that fell off a vehicle, the theft of plastic goose decoys, a huge buck suspected to be shot the day after the close of rifle season.</p><p> My favorite animal story, though, was the Bristol police response to an injured and sick duck found by schoolchildren on the playground at Bristol Elementary. An officer retrieved the duck and took it to a shelter in Shelburne.</p><p> &ldquo;One of the sixth-graders,&rdquo; the report noted, &ldquo;has named the duck Edward.&rdquo;</p><p> As much as we might smile at some of these incidents, there are others that hint at heartbreak. The theft from a Monkton home, for example, of an urn containing a deceased infant&rsquo;s ashes. Another incident where a mother was allegedly driving along a Middlebury street &ldquo;for around 200 feet while her 8-year-old daughter was holding onto and running alongside the vehicle.&rdquo;</p><p> The mother later told police she was &ldquo;not having a good parenting day&rdquo; but added that she was driving slowly and was &ldquo;stunned&rdquo; when she realized her daughter was holding on to the vehicle.</p><p> Whatever we think of these cases, there&rsquo;s inevitably one that strikes our fancy. My favorite was a court report about a man captured last year in Starksboro &mdash; after being on the lam since 2003.</p><p> Though he had been convicted of stealing a Bristol police cruiser in 2002 and crashing it in Lincoln, the man claimed to have no memory of the incident.</p><p> &ldquo;I&rsquo;m guessing you probably don&rsquo;t remember because you were very drunk, based on what I see here,&rdquo; the judge told him.</p><p> Where had the man been for the past nine years?</p><p> &ldquo;I stayed out of trouble and lived in the woods,&rdquo; he told the judge. &ldquo;Most of the time I stayed up on the mountain.&rdquo;</p><p> Well, the judge replied, &ldquo;At least we didn&rsquo;t have you in another DUI, so I guess there&rsquo;s something to be said for that.&rdquo;</p><p> <em>Gregory Dennis&rsquo;s column appears here every other Thursday and is archived on his blog at www.gregdennis.wordpress.com. Email: [email protected].</em></p>

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Addison County Independent

58 Maple Street
Middlebury, VT 05753

Phone: 802.388.4944
Fax: 802.388.3100