Cyndi's Two Cents

Put out the fire of rural crime

I was in a session taking notes about digital farming at a conference in Monheim am Rhein, Germany a couple of years ago when I received a text from my mom.  Although well into the workday on the other side of the pond, I knew it was 2am in the heartland of America.  I was overwhelmed with a sense of dread when I opened the text and saw a picture of a structure fire. 

My mom had taken the picture of my dad watching the house where he had grown up burn to the ground.

It was heartbreaking.

The little farmhouse was a mile down the road from my parents’ home.  No one was living there, but a few family heirlooms, tools, and other items were inside and lost in the fire. Someone driving along the highway early in the morning had seen the blaze and called the local volunteer fire department.

The house was fully engulfed by the time the crew arrived so there wasn’t much they could do but keep the fire from spreading.  There was evidence that the house had been broken into and the firemen and the insurance investigator (a former fire marshal) agreed the fire had been deliberately set but the structure was completely destroyed so it was hard to prove.  And proving it was arson would only mean another case that local law enforcement would not have time or manpower to investigate to ensure the responsible party is held accountable. 

Someone had tried unsuccessfully to set fire to a rural church in the county that same night, but as is the case in many rural counties, the sheriffs’ office is extremely understaffed.  Small rural communities experience many of the same problems as bigger towns and cities.  Rural areas are not immune to substance abuse, arson, homelessness and violent crimes. However, smaller tax bases mean fewer dollars for personnel, technology, training, tools and equipment.

There is often nothing local law enforcement can do except put out the fire and move on, so to speak. Although I have a pretty good idea who set this fire and tried to set another, proving it wouldn’t change that what is left of the house where my daddy was raised and where I spent so many hours with family and with my grandparents is nothing but charred ruins. The arsonist(s) did not and could never burn the memories of Grandma’s open arms at the back door with her welcoming words, “Come here honey and give me some sugar.”  I have a heart full of memories and that is enough.

I am grateful that no life was lost in the fire and none of the volunteer firemen who came in the wee hours of a September morning to fight the blaze were injured. 

Criminal activity is on the rise in many rural areas.  A recent string of burglaries in my home county saw burglars so bold they robbed one house while people were sleeping in their living room recliners. 

Report suspicious activity.  Let your neighbors know when you see an unfamiliar vehicle or something that doesn’t “feel” right.  Lock your house.  We’re going to have to work together “out in the county” to protect ourselves and curtail this rise in rural criminal activity.

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