I figure I’m about average in the luck department.
Last Thursday was wonderful for two reasons. First, I discovered a dead chipmunk in my father’s old bowling bag. Second, I found out about a dozen burglaries in South Bend.
First things first. For more than a week, we had been trying to solve a dead-animal smell in our garage. The chipmunk’s corpse brought closure.
I had checked the mousetraps in the attic. I had emptied the barrel where we keep our skis and other old sports stuff. I had carried away the boxes of items we were going to take to Goodwill and the ReStore.
The smell still was everywhere, and we couldn’t narrow it down to any particular spot. We gave up, briefly. I figured the smell would go away on its own, eventually. Maybe another week. Maybe more.
Then on Thursday I noticed, in the northeast corner of the garage, four bowling ball bags. All but one were zipped closed. It was the longest of longshots that any animal could find its way in, but I took that bag out to the lawn and unzipped it.
The chipmunk was in repose under my dad’s 14-pound Black Beauty ball. He (or she) had no evidence of trauma. A small amount of debris showed it had eaten maybe a day’s worth of helicopter-style maple seeds.
Unknown natural causes. Buried in the backyard, in the dark dirt behind our compost station. I’m not sure if the chipmunk is, but I’m resting in peace.
With that task accomplished, later in the day, an attorney friend of Bill Moor’s passed along a method to find the city’s daily police logs.
I had mentioned here last week that I was uneasy about the lack of crime and public safety information in the South Bend Tribune these days. As a result, I can’t say for sure that the complainers are wrong when they say this is an unsafe place to live.
As my essay said, I had gone to the city police website and found an empty spot where the police logs should be.
With the tip from the attorney, I was able to access the logs Thursday. It’s not easy and it’s not fool-proof. When I tried again Monday, I ran into a message that the information wasn’t available. I tried again today (Tuesday) and found it again.
This is how you would do it: On the header of the police web page (https://police.southbendin.gov), click on Helpful Links and then SBPD Daily Log. If you see a folder labeled Public, click on that. From the long list you see then, click on Police Records. Next, click on 2023 SBPD Public Bulletin. Click on 11 November, and you should be able to see the most recent typed-up log entries.
The entries don’t carry a lot of detail, and it takes some Wheel of Fortune expertise to puzzle through the acronyms. PDTA/MV MV? I’m guessing property damage traffic accident/motor vehicle with motor vehicle. If you see a lot of complaints from a guy named Vic, it’s because he’s the victim every time.
You can skip through the dozens of listings that don’t fit your search. In my case, the mission was to go through a typical Saturday’s reports to see if South Bend indeed is going to hell in a handbasket.
So, how bad was it last Saturday, Nov. 11?
If the city police reports are accurate, there was enough mayhem to keep officers busy but not enough for me to panic and put my house up for sale.
There had been a shooting, with two people injured on Leer Street, about 9 p.m. Friday, Nov. 10. The police reports from the Saturday shifts didn’t seem to have anything that dramatic.
From what I could tell, police investigated eight assaults, all of the hand and fist variety, with no real geographic pattern to them – Western Avenue, Irish Hills, Haney Street, High Street and so on. One rape was reported and investigated.
Of the dozen or so break-ins I saw, someone got into a house on the North Shore Triangle and escaped with guns and money. There was an early-morning armed robbery on North Adams Street. Gunshots were heard before 10 p.m. on South Camden and after 3:30 a.m. on Sherman Avenue.
There were more than a dozen traffic accidents, including one where a Jaguar collided with a Ford Focus. Bummer. A half-dozen people were arrested for driving while intoxicated. A lost wallet was found and returned. Someone threw a rock and damaged a parked car.
It isn’t exactly soothing to read through the police log. For most of us, a call to the police comes on our worst day of the year.
It costs money to repair a dented fender from a minor traffic accident, and that may mean we won’t be buying Christmas presents. If someone waves a gun or shouts curse words at us outside a favorite store, we may never go back. We lose a little of our freedom and our confidence when bad things happen near us.
Still, it didn’t seem like I’m living in a war zone.
My Saturday? I raked leaves, rode my bicycle, went out to dinner with some old friends, got home before 10 p.m. and watched Netflix shows in my basement.
Monitoring the police log is an exercise I recommend. You have a right to know where and what these bad things are. You also have a duty to us all – even if you’re motivated by fear, ignorance, racism or politics — not to exaggerate about how dangerous our city is.
I feel bad for those whose weekends ended up on the police log. But in a city of 100,000 or so people, relatively few of us did anything more dangerous on a Saturday night than watch a cop show on Netflix.
I plan to look at the police logs from time to time, and I wish I had them for Mishawaka, St. Joseph County and all the fire departments here. I want to be informed, and the local newspaper isn’t doing that anymore.
It’s not that much different from investigating that odor in the garage. It seems bad until you find the cause. Then you realize it’s really a small thing that doesn’t have to ruin your day.