By Craig Hastings
I’m reminded this week that not everything I do as a police officer in these troubling times we’re living right now requires me to keep my guard up. Also I’m reminded that there are many wonderful and interesting people that live in Tuscola. There are indeed a few calls for service I’m dispatched that do not require me to be badged and gunned up. However, these calls are every bit as important to me as the ones that do. This dispatch on Thursday of last week was one the caller requested to speak to just me if possible. I would need to hurry to the caller’s home so I might witness a phone call that was currently taking place between the caller and an unknown “solicitor of thievery”. I was familiar with the address given to me which piqued my interest even more. Working mostly the day shift, I’ve gotten dispatched to this type of crime a lot these past few years. This was just one more of an all so familiar attempt to “con and convince” one of our residents out of a few hundred dollars at a time.
Well I did arrive in time to hear part of the conversation between the resident and the con artist. Well, I can say that this guy wasn’t much of an artist. As per most, I couldn’t very well understand what the guy was saying due to his inability to speak the English language. Mostly what I understood and very quickly I did, was that my Tuscola resident had this situation well under control! Clearly this guy from another country on the other end of this call was the person being conned. The moment was grand! I was listening to someone I know very well not only by doing this job but also through both of my parents playing this guy on the other end of the line like a fiddle! Understand that when I’m dispatched to these calls the people I’m going to meet with are really concerned and some afraid of what just happened in a phone call randomly made to their number. Not today! Nope, our own Tuscola citizen was reeling this guy in for me in hopes of possibly discovering who he was by catching him at the drop point picking up his gift card.
Quickly I’ll tell you this was an old con. You get a call telling you that you’ve won something and the only thing you need to do is pay the minimal tax due on your winnings to claim your thousands of times bigger winnings. You’re told to purchase a gift card from a store or money order from a post office and usually given mailing instructions where to send the card. Sometimes the card may even be picked up at the popular box store but it will be picked up by someone of little or no knowledge of what’s going on making them not worth much to an investigation that will lead us to nowhere. Elderly people like myself are usually the target regardless of the con. The best advice I can give you is to call me or the police department before you buy! Even though we have a phone number, the caller nor any of his cohorts will answer the phone. It may even go directly to voicemail. Several years ago I did get a guy to answer the phone on a con similar to this one. Only this time the guy and his “driver” were coming to Tuscola within the hour to pick up $500 cash from this resident. I remember this elderly female was in her late 70’s and had weeks earlier lost her husband. Anyway I told this guy who I was, three times because he couldn’t understand English very well, and I was waiting for him with the $500.
The best part of this day’s event I’m talking about that happened last week was this; I was invited to sit down and visit for a while and visit we did! I was given many old pictures taken of many of Tuscola’s familiar families out of the past and asked if I recognized them by sight in their much younger days. Most of them were of my parent’s age and yes, I was able to identify some of them and if I couldn’t I could turn the picture over and see. We spent the next forty-five minutes covering the history and memories of Tuscola from the 1940’s and up! After the first five minutes the police business was over and the rest of our time was spent trading past and present gossip. It was great! Where else but rural living would this be possible? New York, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Portland, Chicago, all on fire and police being calculated out of the picture via budget redos by the demands of the very few in numbers and intellect.
What I did this day is being done thousands of times a day all over America by police officers. What we do is connect with the people we serve in order to make our citizens feel safe. This day the caller wanted to speak with me. Why because I’ve been here for forty years serving the community of Tuscola. Born and raised here as have been my family. When your citizens ask for you by name to help them solve a problem, it’s something that goes to the heart. There isn’t a much better compliment for us and a return appreciation from us knowing our citizens have confidence in us individually that you know us by name and have confidence in us to keep you safe. This is the policing you should expect in rural communities. Caller, you know who you are, you read my stories, thank you for asking about my mother, and I want you to know I had a great time visiting and remembering a little bit of Tuscola and it’s citizens. And Boyd, you and I need to talk. I learned something new this day!