Just Call The Cops.
I recently got notification from the District Attorney's office that I didn't need to come in to testify on a Stalking case that I filed last year.
The victim had called 911 and met me at the police department. I arrived to find a distraught woman, who wanted to go inside the locked P.D. very quickly. I interviewed her, and learned that her baby's daddy, Jimmy Joe Bob, had called and threatened to kill her, and her family. He was very specific about how he was going to do it, and what tool he was going to use, and what members of her family he was going to kill. He made special mention of her new boyfriend. She knew that he would do it, she said, because she had been with him for a long time, and he was a very violent man. I checked his criminal history, and found that there was evidence to support this. While we talked, her phone blew up with voicemail messages. He left message after message, saying that he was en route from his distant town, coming to kill her and her family and her boyfriend. You could hear car noises in the background. He laughed with others, and sang little sing-song rhymes about how he was going to do this thing.
Eventually, after I had her statement, I answered one of the calls, and I talked to Jimmy Joe Bob. I explained who I was, and asked him why he had said these things. He laughed, and said he was just joking, but went on to malign her boyfriend and parents. As we talked, I could hear his vehicle slow, stop, accelerate, and continue like it had been going. I asked him where he was going, and he told me that he was going back home. He'd decided to cut his 300 mile trip short, just 40 miles from his destination: her house. She went home, alerted the family, and they set in vigil. I did some close patrols on their house. Of course, he never showed up that night.
I gathered the evidence, and put together a case and a warrant for Stalking (a State Jail felony). He was picked up, and made bond. The D.A. dropped the charge down to Terroristic Threat (Class A misdemeanor), but still continued on with the case. At the last minute, he plead for 9 months and fines. Not too bad, considering a Class A is only good for up to a year in jail, and no one ever gets that much.
This case was an unusually strong one, because Jimmy Joe Bob got talkative when he was drunk and tweaking, and he told me a lot that hurt his defense. He also left those damning voicemail messages. I don't always get such good evidence to work with.
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I thought about that case, as I read my friend Don Gwinn's response to the New York Times editorial: "The Hard Work of Gun Control."
Apparently, it's ludicrous, in the mind of a N.Y.T. editor, to conceive of a situation when an armed family member would be a more effective response to a real threat than calling a police officer to your location, away from the thousand-odd other persons that he's charged with protecting.
There are 13,400 sworn police officers in Chicago. Sounds like a LOT, doesn't it? But then consider that the population of Chicago proper is 2.8 million people (greater Chicago metropolitan area is 9.7M.). Then, too, realize that only about a quarter of those officers are on duty at any given time, and you end up with a ratio of one officer for every 836 people. Then consider that a lot of those sworn officers are detectives and supervisors who don't patrol. But if we ignore that, and pretend that the chief and the captains and the deputy chiefs and the superintendents all get out and patrol, you get about a 1 : 836 ratio of cops to citizens.
Here's the fact, coming from a patrol officer who's given this some study to get a graduate degree in criminal justice: Police VERY RARELY interrupt crimes in progress. Police are out patrolling mostly so that they can see things developing, and so that they can be in the neighborhood to respond when something does happen. That is, we are reactive. Laughing it off and telling Mom to just call the cops on a situation that may very well never happen, but which is likely enough to make her scared about it, is the kind of insensitivity that makes me wonder if the author of such a comment ever had a mother. As the officer who must make the decision between trying to justify his camping out at this ONE house for more than a few minutes longer, or patrolling for the other 835 people on my beat*, I can tell you that it would seem like the best idea is to make sure that someone in the house could take care of Mama.
*FWIW, Chicago has one of the best ratios of cops. I'm at 1:4000 here.