Folks in the Cook and Orr area are used to doing things for themselves. For years, they’ve always shown a willingness to roll up their sleeves and do what needs to be done to improve their communities. And they’re doing it again with their efforts to form a community watch group to combat the epidemic of thefts and break-ins that is now plaguing the area.
It’s a serious issue, as the turnout at this past week’s organizational meeting of the watch group attests. When 100 people turn out for a meeting in Orr this time of year, you know there is major concern, one that has affected many dozens of families personally.
People are right to be upset over the losses they’ve suffered as a result of thefts or property damage, and it’s understandable that many, if not most, people in the area fear they could be next.
That’s why the St. Louis County Sheriff’s Office should consider devoting more resources to this area, at least until the perpetrators of these crimes are brought to justice. There’s no question that the sheriff’s office has to prioritize the use of its limited resources. And when those resources are deployed based on population size, it’s no surprise that the sparsely populated region centered around Orr sees comparatively fewer patrols.
Unfortunately, it is the sparsity of the population here that is making properties in the area particularly vulnerable. Many, if not most, of the homes and cabins targeted by criminals are relatively remote, often with no close neighbors. And with just a single deputy on duty at a time within an immense geographical area, criminals feel like they can act with relative impunity. An organized community watch can make a difference, but the investigative skills of the sheriff’s office are going to have to be part of the solution. Without the ability to investigate and lock up the perpetrators, a community watch is like playing whack-a-mole.
We recognize that resources are tight, but the situation in the Orr area, in particular, is crying out for some additional law enforcement resources, at least temporarily, to bring this latest crime spree under control.
This is not to suggest that the current law enforcement personnel have been unresponsive. From most reports we’ve heard, the local deputies have been prompt to respond when alerted to ongoing incidents. As we’ve previously reported, arrests have been made and charges have been pressed against at least some of the criminals involved, and that’s a credit both to the alertness of local residents as well as the responsiveness of local law enforcement.
It’s only natural, however, that when a community is willing to step up its efforts to address an epidemic of property crime, they might expect to see a step-up in activity from local law enforcement. As area deputies suggested at last week’s community watch meeting, they already believe they know the parties responsible for much of the criminal activity affecting the area. If so, it’s time to devote the necessary investigative resources to generate the evidence needed to file charges and make them stick.
For folks in the North Country, the feeling that our area is safe is an important element in our overall quality of life. When criminals shatter that sense of security, residents have a right to expect they’re not on their own.
It’s time they had some extra help to bring the situation back under control.