Coppers

The North Carolina Highway Patrol deserves a lot of credit. I’ve yet to muster up the ambition to check into exactly what their role is in the broader scheme of enforcing the law, but the limited dealings I’ve had with them have told me they believe in what they do.

Like this, for instance: a trooper told me today lawmen for the agency have volunteered to work New Year’s Eve because they know they’re doing some good by keeping drunkards off the roadways. Even troopers who are entitled to the day off because they worked over Christmas.

I’ve been hard on this branch of the law in the past. To me, it has seemed as if all they do is shoot radar and wait for motorists doing 65 miles per hour in a 55 mph zone. They enjoy playing cat and mouse with drivers, making sharp u-turns on the highway to run people down, often, no doubt, topping 100 mph.

But the fact so many are eager to stop people from possibly killing others by driving drunken really shows me something.

Yep – their job is to shoot radar. Their authority is generally limited to the roadways. Murders? Larcenies? You won’t find the highway patrol anywhere near them.

That doesn’t make them a cancerous growth on the body of N.C. law enforcement.

I see them changing tires on family minivans. I watch them chip in for counties with a bare-bones sheriff’s office. I know they help a lot.

The question I still have regarding N.C. law enforcement is this: considering there are so many agencies in N.C. (there’s also Alcohol Law Enforcement and State Bureau of Investigation in addition to municipal police departments and county sheriff’s offices) , why is the crime so damn high?

Cities such as Kinston and New Bern aren’t busting metropolises teeming with life. Places of their size are all over, including where I’m from in western New York, yet there isn’t nearly the frequency of murders, drug peddling and sex crimes against little kids.

Where I grew up, we had a couple local-yokel cops who pestered the residents more than find crime to fight, the sheriff’s office and state troopers. As I understood it, the troopers, deputies and local-yokels had the same responsibilities, but there jurisdictions were different.

Troopers could shoot radar and nab drug dealers – including conduct some undercover investigations – statewide. Sheriff’s offices did the same, but only in their respective counties. Local-yokels, while they rarely went as far as to conduct undercover stings, stuck to their municipalities.

And that was it.

Yet, we didn’t see half the crap there as what happens here.

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