Crime frustrating in the ‘snow globe’

Published 7:56 pm Tuesday, June 7, 2016

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    Is the snow globe broken? Probably not, but then, maybe it never was quite what we thought it was.

    The snow globe, of course, is Smithfield’s Historic District, enshrined as that by a new resident more than a decade ago as the absolute “perfect” place to live — so perfect, in that admirer’s eyes that nothing about it should ever change.

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    For years, there’s been a belief belief that the district is sort of a modern Mayberry where everybody is always smiling. No fuss, no muss, no crime. Everyone is happy with everyone else, unless folks are upset occasionally with government not keeping the “globe” as perfect as it should be.

    Over the years, the symbolism has evolved. Most recently, much in the district has been marketed as “genuine,” a savvy connection to the “Genuine Smithfield Ham” of worldwide fame. Most every “good thing” that happens in the district today is labeled “genuine,” whether it’s been happening for generations are started just this week.


    So, would it be true that the wave of crime that is currently annoying residents of Grace, Cary and Main Streets is also “genuine” Smithfield? Quite probably. After all, it is not unusual in any community to have unattended and unlocked cars looted by wandering young people. It’s probably not all that unusual to have nasty graffiti painted occasionally, unless it happens to be your car that someone selected to paint a two-word expletive on. But you would probably have to admit that the Molotov cocktail tossed into the middle of Cary Street one night this spring a bit unusual.

    The thing about this type of recurring crime is that it has a way of escalating. That’s why I can’t blame the residents who are concerned about it for forming a Neighborhood Watch group and undertaking some private patrols to keep an eye out for unusual activity. They’re talking to each other, exchanging information, beginning to note who is coming and going. And it’s all good.

    Of course, resident awareness can become annoying if you happen to be the police dispatcher getting calls about what seem like rather minor incidents. But that’s part of the price of neighborhood watchfulness. It just comes with the territory.

    Part of the current problem is also an element of what makes the district special. Downtown is what town officials proudly call a “walking district.” Everything is compact, people often walk the area rather than ride, and generally enjoy their surroundings.

    But you can’t pick and choose who does the walking, and walkers can include petty troublemakers. And that is what some residents are finding annoying right now.

A snow globe? The Historic District never was. But globe or not, it’s probably overdue for a good shaking.