Are America’s Small Towns Prepared for Big Time Crimes

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Six months ago in North English, Iowa a Williamsburg police officer shot and killed a man during a domestic violence dispute. North English has a population of 1,022 and doesn’t have a police department.

Several days later the 911 recording was released. The operator was on the phone with the victim for 32 minutes before officers from Williamsburg and sheriffs from Marengo arrived. A lot can take place in 32 minutes and it had. The situation had escalated to a point where officers had no other choice than to shoot the suspect rightfully proven by the body cameras worn by the officers.

On December 9, 2017 Williamsburg, Iowa was subjected to its first violent crime since 1896, attempted murder. Since moving here in the summer of 2015 the only crime until now was when two high school age kids stole quarters from the laundromat in the town square.

My husband and I laughed off the coin theft. After relocating to Williamsburg from Phoenix quarters had little value to us compared to the crime we were used to living with.

Of course we found it funny.

Crime was one of the two reasons we left the city and relocated to a small town farming community. It was worth the culture shock to our family to move to a place where there had been a zero crime rate. Tractors drive up and down the roads. The local farming supply gave free bulldozer buckets of manure to moms on Mother’s Day. I’ve never been in the library when more than five people were there.

A laundromat heist vs. The Baseline Killer, Freeway Shooter, daily stabbings, shootings, sexual assaults, child abductions, drug overdoses and gang violence. We couldn’t help but to use humor as a sigh of relief.

According to the FBI list of most dangerous cities, Phoenix ranks at number 16. With a population of 4.5 million statistics show you have a 1 in 149 chance of being a victim of a violent crime. The state of Arizona is ranked the 10th on the list of most dangerous states with statistics of a 1 in 234 chance.

According to the Arizona Republic the average bail for attempted murder charge is set at $1,000,000.

Williamsburg has a population of 3,179 including the farms that surround the town. It’s also one of the only towns fortunate to have a police department which consists of seven officers and one police chief.

The suspect broke into the home a 2:00 AM and repeatedly stabbed the male victim in the throat, back and chest while he was sleeping. The family had a restraining order against the suspect for reasons not disclosed in the news. The victim is currently in the Intensive Care Unit at University of Iowa Hospital facing life threatening injuries. There were children in the home.

This was premeditated even if only planned that very evening. There had clearly been recent issues if a restraining order was involved. There’s still uncertainty if the victim will survive. The suspect has been charged with first degree attempted murder, breaking and entering and a DUI after it was determined he had left the scene of the crime driving under the influence. He was intoxicated.

He was held at the Iowa County Sheriff’s Department and seen before the Magistrate of the court in Marengo, Iowa. The Iowa County Court employs two part time Magistrates. The suspect’s bail is set at $25,000, an amount less than the average cost of a new SUV.

Magistrate- a civil officer or lay judge who administers the law, especially one who conducts a court that deals with minor offenses.- Webster online

Are restraining orders designed to protect people? According to this Mythbusters episode, no. Adam and Jamie prove that it’s possible to shoot a target from 500 yards away with precision. According to the Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and Law restraining orders have an average of a 65% violation rate per year.

Will small towns have the ability to evolve as crimes evolve? Right now we’re in a place where these are rare occurrences but as times change so will the crime rate. It won’t be too long before crime begins to seep through the cracks of Small Town, America.

In Trump’s America where citizens grow angrier by the day we have little hope for our small towns remaining the safe reprieve we once believed them to be, with law enforcement and a justice system unprepared to handle it.

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Newspaper reporter in Eastern Iowa. The views expressed are mine alone.

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