Editor’s note: In preparing for this week’s editorial, we reached out to Okaloosa County Sheriff Larry Ashley for his thoughts on the importance of reporting potential crimes — child abuse, reckless driving, suspicious activities, etc. — to law enforcement. The sheriff’s response was so complete that we have nothing to add. His words are below.
Coming forward with information that helps expose a crime, or plans for a crime, can literally be of life and death significance. Making the decision to share what you know with law enforcement can help ensure that lawbreakers are held accountable, and just as importantly, that they are placed behind bars where they no longer have the ability to commit another sexual assault, robbery or other crimes.
The law enforcement mantra of today is “If You See Something, Say Something” and we can’t stress enough our gratitude to those in society who take that advice to heart and step forward to help make their communities safer.
We often hear about suspicions after the fact and the common reason for not coming forward is, “Well I didn’t want to bother you all.” For the record, reporting a crime to your local law enforcement is not a bother at all. It is the fuel that allows us to operate efficiently in helping deter and prevent crime as well as apprehending and holding criminals accountable.
Merely reporting an incident helps us significantly in connecting and solving multiple cases. One piece of evidence from a witness statement in one incident is compared to other witness statements and evidence in other similar-type cases. Reporting suspicious activity and crime is critical in helping us solve your crime and others, and it benefits our entire community.
Of course, we are all mandatory reporters when it comes to abuse. The law doesn’t require that you determine the veracity of the information you receive or even witness. It merely requires that you report it so that it can be evaluated and investigated. Failure to report child abuse is a violation of the law in and of itself.
It can be tips or information about a reckless driver, a child abuser, a car burglar or a murderer. The only way to prevent those individuals from perpetrating additional crimes is to find them and hold them accountable so that we all can be protected from additional crimes. As responsible and caring citizens, we have an obligation to help ensure we maintain law and order within our community. The easiest way to do that is by reporting suspicious activity.
Prevention is the goal: Prevent additional crimes. Prevent additional victims. Stop the cycle that endangers our loved ones and our community’s safety.
So much of the tragedy we see happen could have been prevented by someone taking the time to contact law enforcement with their concerns and reporting the information they have. Emerald Coast Crime Stoppers is also a key crime prevention tool that allows tipsters to remain anonymous. The life you save may be your own or someone you love. Our community’s quality of life depends on the vigilant, involved, law-abiding citizens.