Protect and Serve?
By Ethan Van Sice, Editor
Video surveillance footage of the masked man who stole over $7,000 worth of cigarettes from a QV gas station was the biggest news to come out of Hayneville last week. However based off the video’s popularity, one might consider it big news just about anywhere.
As it should be.
At least 3 television news stations and 3 major newspapers (including the Montgomery Advertiser) picked up the story within the first 48 hours. Each article concluded with 1-800 hotlines and anonymous tip resources for anyone who could identify the individual.
The Hayneville PD had clearly been humbled by their lack of evidence and/or inability to track down the burglar using their own devices, so for the sake of justice, they released the tape to the public hoping it would aid in their investigation.
This is a textbook example of what it means to “protect and serve”. It’s also the kind of “swallowing of pride” every tax-paying citizen should expect from their local police force. However, in the wake of similar and consecutive break-in’s right here in Camden, it seems as if people have come to expect less.
Over the past few months, our own QV service station on Hwy 41 has been burglarized for cigarettes…twice.
The Dollar General on Legion St. has been burglarized for cigarettes…twice.
And just last week, the Fred’s Dollar Store on the Camden Bypass was burglarized for…you guessed it.
Each one of these incidences have a few things in common.
1) they each occurred within a radius of 100 yards or less.
2) they each took place around the same time of night.
3) they each were centered around the same brand of merchandise.
4) they each involved two, black males wearing bandanas. And we know this because…
5) they each were captured on video surveillance.
But for one reason or another, the Camden PD has chosen not to release the full videos to this newspaper, the general public, or any other media source for that matter. The excuse being that they were all “under investigation.”
With the information we have obtained, we know that the suspects were tall, lanky, African-American males whose clothing suggested they were between the ages of 18-35. We’ve received quotes from various Camden police officers to believe that each case was “distinguishably similar”, that the suspects “more than likely lived in Camden,” and that “a lot of people around town know exactly who they are.”
So what’s the problem? Why shouldn’t we use that to our advantage? I feel like if the Camden PD was truly devoted to protecting business owners in the future, bringing justice to those already victimized, and ensuring the safety of civilians, the decision should be a no-brainer.
Camden is not a very private place. The population is low and the rumor mill is functioning. Yes, of course people know who stole the cigarettes. And those who don’t know wouldn’t have a hard time figuring it out: “it’s probably those guys with all the cigarettes.”
Small as it may be, I believe the Camden PD is chock-full of legitimate, all-star police officers. We can take pride in the veracity, dutifulness, and commitment to honor we receive, especially from the younger generation. They do a great job on an individual level. But whenever a department-wide investigation is pending, I feel like a lot of that energy is being wasted.
That drive is being silenced by overhead protocol. I’d hate for some old-school mentality, some “we can only do so much” philosophy to infect the minds of the officers who really want to make a difference. I believe many of them understand how a news source can be more of a “tool” to aid in investigations, while those at the department’s head probably see it more as a curtain-pulling machine.
The younger guys see the benefits of social media. They see how broad of an audience is pulled in through the paper, as well as the internet. Our website would be the perfect stage for these security tapes. They would be circulated all over facebook, searched for in google, and passed along through innumerous email chains until they eventually reached other, larger news stations who in turn would generate even more viewers. If nothing else, I’m 100% certain we’d achieve at least one, mutual goal: eliminating at least two, nasty nicotine habits in Camden.