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A better way to be informed

Out Loud

January 27, 2010 - Did you know Oakland County's crawling with illegal immigrants? Or that fake social security cards, identification, driver's licenses and other documents are easy and cheap to come by, making jobs—jobs rightfully belonging to American citizens—easy to come by as well? Know a fast food joint or other restaurant where many employees seem to struggle with their English? You can bet your bottom dollar some of them are illegal.

I didn't know any of this until I started reading police reports a few years back.

Did you know dope fiends use Chore Boy—that copper, scrubby pad you and I use in the kitchen—in their crack pipes?

Or that a drug-sniffing dog can smell pot that was in your car last week?

Did you know Lake Orion area teens frequently cited for possession of marijuana, alcohol, or worse?

Or that the cops will haul you to jail if you throw the first punch in a domestic dispute, whether your punch-ee wants to "press charges" or not?

I didn't know, either, until I started reading police reports.

Three years ago I was just like many of you: law-abiding and mostly oblivious, but for good reason.

I didn't hear the details.

And that's why, when I arrived at the Lake Orion Review in September, changing the way we did the police page was at the top of my list of priorities. The old way seemed lazy to me, and created more questions than it answered.

I went fishing for some examples. The following are from various Review issues published in 2008: Assault and battery reported on Maybee.

Suspicious activity and threats reported at (a bank) on Flint. Suspicious activity? Was it a guy in a mask? Someone peering in car windows? The bank windows? Was it a group of people carrying Bibles? What?

Intimidation reported on W. Madison Avenue.

Disturbance reported on North Park.

Operating while intoxicated on Broadway.

Trailer reported damaged on King Circle.

Damaged? Did it catch on fire? Was it used as a pallet by some kid with a can of spray paint? Did someone in a drunken stupor crash a car into it?

I take my job and my responsibility to you, the reader, seriously, and if I was providing you with nothing more than logbook list of goings-on, I'd be doing you—and the paper—a disservice

Some people think we're picking and choosing, reports, but I can assure you, nearly everything that's in the reports ends up on page 12 of this paper every week. If I don't see the reports, that's a different story.

The Oakland County Sheriff's Office is happy to share reports with the media—I know I don't see all of them, but when something's withheld, they usually tell me why.

The Lake Orion Police department, on the other hand, shares details but doesn't let us see the reports. We could pick a fight, or choose to trust them until we have a reason to think we shouldn't. I, for now, choose the latter.

Lake Orion Review Editor
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