To the Point for 2/24/05

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IT’S SOMETHING WE DON’T LIKE to think about, but unfortunately it’s something that even those of us living in small towns and communities need to be more and more aware of.

There was a time when more serious and violent crimes only happened in the big city. In places like Switzerland County and other rural communities around the county, law enforcement officers were mainly faced with traffic citations and the occasional person who had a little too much to drink.

A couple of years ago we laughed at being called “Mayberry”, even to the extent that current sheriff Nathan Hughes and his family and friends used a Mayberry theme on his campaign float in the Swiss Wine Festival parade.

We would watch national news or read city daily newspapers and wonder why anyone would want to live in more urban areas.

The disturbing truth is that more and more smaller communities are no longer immune to the dangers of more serious crime.

When Katie Collman was missing in the small town of Crothersville — population 3,285 — not too far from here, the entire community rallied to begin the search to help find her. That’s what friends and neighbors in small towns do — they go out and help each other.

When Katie’s body was found, it cut through Crothersville like a knife. As horrible as the death of a child was, when arrests were made, things got even more scary for that community.

Law enforcement officials investigating the crime theorize that Katie stumbled upon a methamphetamine lab, and that the people who were involved in making the illegal drugs killed Katie to keep her quiet.

A meth lab? In Crothersville? The killing of a 10-year old child? In Crothersville?

You may not like to hear this, Switzerland County, but methamphetamine labs exist here, too.

Switzerland County Sheriff Nathan Hughes and his officers found three meth labs in one location last year; and the number of labs located in the county came near double digits last year. County officers fly marijuana eradication programs every year.

“I know that we’ve also gotten information here in this county that led to the locating of meth labs in Ripley County, too,” the sheriff said.

The Indiana State Police is constantly looking for meth labs and fields of marijuana plants, too, and they continue to cooperate with the Switzerland County Sheriff’s office and the Vevay Police Department to provide as much police protection as possible.

If there is a silver lining to horrible crimes like this happening in smaller communities, it is that the people who live there are not callused to those crimes.

In Crothersville, an anti-drug march in Katie Collman’s honor was held this past Sunday. Part of the route of the march took the citizens past the apartment complex where Katie apparently saw the meth lab.

Chanting “no more drugs”, the community of Crothersville has focused its grief on making sure that nothing like this ever happens again to a child or anyone else.

The community is gathering funds, and when enough money has been collected, they intend to buy that same apartment building and tear it to the ground. Once that’s done, a park will be built on the site in Katie Collman’s memory — turning a place of tragedy into a place where children can play and feel safe.

In Loogootee, Indiana, a man on Sunday shot his estranged wife and her boyfriend, his four-year daughter and five-year old son; and then when confronted by police, he shot himself.

Five killings on a single day in a community of 8,150 people.

Again, if there is a positive in all of this, it is that the community has immediately rallied around the surviving family members and are committed to doing whatever it takes to ease the suffering and find some answers.

Don’t think that could happen here? According to records in the Switzerland County Communications Department, in 2004 there were 136 domestic disturbance calls — about one every three days — and those are just the ones where the sheriff’s department got a call.

Am I writing this to scare you? Not really, but I am writing this today to inform each and every one of you that criminal acts can and do take place in small towns and communities.

What can we do? Like Crothersville, we can choose to take back our communities. We can stay on the lookout for suspicious activity, and when we see it, we can call and report it.

We can watch the houses of our neighbors while they are gone on vacations or on other trips, making sure that people aren’t walking around the property who aren’t supposed to be there.

And when we see them, we call someone and report it.

You see someone walking out into the woods or into a field with buckets of water and bags of fertilizer, chances are they aren’t trying a new method of growing soybeans.

Call.

You see someone buying large quantities of everyday items like kitchen matches — the heads are used in the manufacturing of methamphetamine, take notice.
And call.

This is our community and these are our neighbors. In a society where the big city continues to grow closer and closer to us; we have two alternatives:

Either watch our community go down the drain; or stand up and defend it and help our law enforcement officers in anyway we can.
Let’s all choose to stand.