There's a lot occupying Keene's police every day, by John McGauley

It’s been about two years now that I’ve monitored the daily Keene police blotter, delivered to my email address about 3 a.m. from the department, and which covers the previous 24 hours of activities.

On average, there are roughly a hundred things listed on this blotter, a recitation of all the events that have occupied the cops. Unbeknownst to most city residents as they go about their peaceful day or sleep securely in their beds at night, there is a lot of stuff happening in our city that has a nighttime population of 23,000 that swells to triple that during the day.

Here are my conclusions, in no particular order, from studying these reports for a couple of years:

We’re a bunch of reckless, speedy drivers. On any given day, the cops stop about 25 vehicles for various reasons. Most of the time they let the drivers off with a warning instead of a ticket. The traffic stops don’t cluster in one area of the city, but occur everywhere. Now figuring that the cops witness only a tiny fraction of crazy and stupid drivers because of the fact that drivers behave when they spot a police car, the number of traffic violations must be nearly infinite. I’m wondering if the police even bother to stop drivers for not using directional signals, since it would involve pulling over virtually everybody.

There are numerous car accidents, obviously the result of speed, carelessness, distracted drivers and occasionally impaired operators either because of alcohol, drugs or medical conditions. There is one roundabout that’s particularly dangerous — the big one at Route 101 and Winchester Street. Nearly every day there’s an accident there; some days two or three. Anyone who drives it knows why; it’s designed to encourage games of chicken.

Coming in second for accidents is the smaller roundabout at Route 9 and Base Hill Road. Third is the weird intersection of Pearl, Winchester and Island streets. Surprisingly, Central Square’s chaotic traffic circle is somewhat free of traffic accidents, as is the roundabout at Main and Winchester at Keene State College.

In a significant number of traffic mishaps, it’s a hit-and-run.

Every so often the cops are called with reports of a deceased person. Most of these calls are to residences and there’s no sinister reason for the death, a person just reached their expiration date. Every once in a while, though, a body is found outside somewhere, as was the case this past week when the corpse of a man was found next to the bike path near the North Bridge. When this has occurred in the past two years, the body has usually been that of a homeless person.

Every other day, on average, but sometimes twice a day, the cops get a call about a suicide attempt or threat. These occur like clockwork and, like traffic stops, they can occur anywhere in the city.

I’ve noticed an increase in assaults; a couple a day, sometimes more. A local judge explained to me that legally, the continuum for assault can range from something as minor as a shove to another person’s shoulder to a full-fledged beating.

Domestic disturbances are a daily occurrence, ranging upwards of four or five a day. Most don’t result in arrests.

Our animals are restless. Up to a half-dozen times a day, police respond to residents complaining about unsecured or barking dogs. Not so many cat calls.

There are apparently a lot of suspicious people hanging out around Keene. Sometimes there are a half-dozen calls to police about “suspicious” persons spotted somewhere. Most of the time nothing comes of it, but occasionally these people are arrested, on any number of charges. Again, like traffic stops, “suspicious persons” are reported everywhere in the city.

As has been true for centuries, there’s a significant amount of intoxication, up to three or four people a day are hauled in for being drunk in public and held in protective custody until they dry out.

Frequently, it seems, there are people who have trouble showing up in court, so the cops have to go fetch them with what’s called a bench warrant. This happens several times every day.

Also, several times a day the police are called for what’s known as welfare checks, calling at a residence where there’s some concern about a person’s well-being. These calls are made by relatives, friends or neighbors who haven’t been able to contact the resident.

There’s a significant amount of thievery in Keene: shoplifting mainly, but sometimes burglary. Fortunately, armed robbery is rare.

Keene State College students cause a bit of trouble, almost always involving drinking or noise. But it appears that the college kids have quieted down in the past year.

One might assume the time of day matters; that more police calls about unruly behavior would be late at night. But that’s not true. There seems to be no rhyme or reason to when something occurs that necessitates involving the police.

Importantly, the cops do a significant amount of routine work. They patrol, check on buildings, perform probation and parole checks, and walk up and down Main Street. They assist the fire department and the paramedics, as well as the State Police.

As I’ve written before, our cops are a busy bunch. Thank God they’re there.

John McGauley, an author and local radio talk-show host, writes from Keene. He can be reached at mcgauleyink@gmail.com

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