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VOL. 127 | NO. 77 | Thursday, April 19, 2012

Vic Fleming

Gripping Tales Of True Crime

By Vic Fleming

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During the past 16 months, NPR has featured a couple of creative police-blotter writers in stories filed by Don Gorenstein and Alexandria Gutierrez.

In January 2011, Gorenstein reported on John Nolan, editor of the Rochester (N.H.) Times, who writes up the local police’s doings, and is known to inject puns and rhyme into his work. For example:

“At Halloween upon a street where youngsters go for Trick-or-Treat, a worried parent calls the cops. His kid has been handed Hall’s cough drops.

A curiosity has gripped us – Cherry, mint or eucalyptus?

Police check out this plot of terror and find it was a simple error.”

More examples of Nolan’s work:

“On Winter Street, a lady pushes a gentleman through a window to air a grievance.”

“5:47 p.m., with only a crescent moon, teens have to fight under a street light.”

“1:27 a.m., the people in the raucous Granite Street apartment are at it again, banging on walls and yelling louder than ever.”

“8:12 p.m., spring has arrived – a bike is stolen from a Charles Street driveway.”

Gorenstein is not alone in his creative endeavors, though he might be a tad remote from the competition. In April, Gutierrez reported on Sgt. Jennifer Shockley, who, in Unalaska, Alaska, has written up the local “crime report” for six years. Among her work we find:

“A grown man asked an officer to tell his grown dipsomaniac son to go beddy-bye. The officer helped the drunk to bed, but declined the request to feed the family cat on the way out.”

“Petite piles of poo promulgated by pets prompted a protest to police.”

Gutierrez reported that local newspaper editor James Mason calls Shockley’s entries “little soap operas, and says that they’re far and away his most anticipated feature.” Here are a few more examples of her work:

“Andrey Bachal, a Russian national and apparent fan of American television, was caught stealing a ‘Deadliest Catch’ T-shirt from Alaska Ship Supply. Bachal, who insisted he had intended to pay for the shirt which he had stuffed inside his zipped-up jacket, was charged with one count of Concealment of Merchandise.”

“Officer watched three extremely intoxicated and giggling louts urinate on the road, on themselves, on one another, and on a taxi in front of the Harbor View Bar. The wet-legged men abashedly explained to the admonishing officer they had been kicked out of the bar before having an opportunity to use the restroom there.”

“Officers responded to a food fight on board a fishing vessel, where they found that the captain and another man had thrown mashed potatoes, corn dogs and jalapenos at the cook’s stateroom door. The captain, who denied involvement until reminded by officers that his shoes were covered with food similar to that found in the hallway, was advised to apologize and treat his crew with more respect.”

More of Shockley’s work next week. Meanwhile, do you know of creative police blotters in your area? I’ve previously reported on them, from Eureka Springs, Ark., to Rye, N.Y.

Vic Fleming is a district court judge in Little Rock, Ark., where he also teaches at the William H. Bowen School of Law. Contact him at vicfleming@att.net.

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