True confession. Whenever I’m feeling down, I cheer myself up by reading the police reports. It’s true! They are right there in the newspaper every week, but I suspect most people don’t even notice. Maybe they even avoid them because they just don’t want to read any more bad news. That’s a shame, really, because the police blotter can be pretty comforting. Reading it just plain reminds you that people are silly, that the police help a lot of people, and that pretty much everything is going to be just fine.
I started reading the police blotter when I was 15 or 16 and growing up in the suburbs, right round the time I became a fan of News of the Weird. It never even occurred to me that it was weird to turn straight to the police reports. (I had one friend who read the obituaries and then crossed the names out of the phone book. That DID seem weird. In life, I guess, everything is relative.) Let me tell you, the newspapers in Louisiana had some great stuff in the police reports. Women seemed to be giving birth in cars ALL the time! And there was always some kind of dispute about stolen boudin or voodoo. Sometimes both boudin AND voodoo.
I live up north now and within the city limits. While I still read the police reports in my local paper, they basically just remind me to lock the car door if I park it on the street overnight. So if I’m feeling down, I turn to the suburban police blotter. Or blotters, I guess, since this is a metropolitan area on the wide open plains of the Midwest and there is a North, a South, an East and a West Metro.
Here are a few recent items from the Minneapolis Star Tribune:
PRIOR LAKE (OCT. 8) Littering. A Prior Lake police officer observed a refrigerator, old tires and concrete blocks dumped along the road near Howard Lake Rd. NW. and NW. 154th Street. The city maintenance crew was advised of the debris.
CORCORAN (SEPT. 29) Suspicious person. Someone reported that a suspicious man with a clipboard was going door-to-door and walking around the neighborhood on the 8600 block of Trail Haven Road. Officers located the man and found he was a city assessor inspecting properties.
See, now aren’t you starting to feel a little better already? Sure, there are downers in the police reports – DWIs or sisters throwing peanut butter jars and hurting each other. But mostly it’s like Andy Griffith moved on up to Lake Wobegon.
COCORAN (OCT. 4) Property damage. Officers responded to a home on the 7800 block of Maple Hill Road regarding property damage. Someone had keyed the residents’ vehicle and had written on it with marker. Officers discovered that two children, ages 2 and 3, had marked up the vehicle.
There you have it – proof of the principle of Occam’s Razor! Now for more from Midwestern suburbia:
MINNETRISTA (OCT. 1) Suspicious activity. Officers confiscated 30 rolls of toilet paper after encountering suspicious vehicles along Eastview Avenue.
High School TPers Foiled Again! Football season must be Level Orange Alert. Let’s forge onward:
HOPKINS (SEPT. 26) Theft. A cat carrier was reported missing from a home on the 9100 block of 7th Street S.
MINNETRISTA (SEPT. 25) Theft. Gargoyles valued at $300 were stolen from the yard of a home on Kennedy Memorial Drive.
COON RAPIDS (SEPT. 16) Theft. A coin purse containing lipstick and a nail clipper were stolen from an unlocked car parked in a lot on the 3100 block of 111th Avenue NW
More than anything, the thefts in the police report remind me that we are fortunate enough to live in a country with a functioning justice system. No matter how small the theft, people feel that they can and should report it to the police. Then the police report officially record that the thing (whether it is a cat carrier or a nail clipper or a gargoyle) was stolen. And then someone at the newspaper writes about it and prints it. Total transparency, zero corruption. This is the standard that the police in many countries in the world need to achieve.
Every once in a while, there is even a little something to remind me of my youth:
FRIDLEY (SEPT. 10) Assisting the public. A woman from the 6000 block of 2nd Street NE. complained to officers that her neighbors were doing voodoo on her. Police discussed the woman’s options with her.
I’m a human rights lawyer, so I see the worst aspects of humans in my work. But I also see the best very aspects of humanity and that has taught me to look for the joy in life, no matter how mundane That’s why I read the police reports these days.
I’ve always imagined that these police blotter descriptions are the work of an intern with a highly developed sense of satire, who is, in her spare time, writing the next Great American Novel. Sometimes I worry that the decline of print media will mean that this public service will get the ax and deprive me of the solace that I take in these random acts of strangers. Or, then again, maybe not. Maybe someone will just develop an app for that. (Please?)