The “Night Elf” Character in the 2004 Movie “World of Warcraft” said in one scene, “I don’t mind the gnomes, but I am always worried about tripping over them.” Last week in Sparta, the only people tripping over gnomes were Sparta Police Detectives. The floor of their office was filled wall to wall with almost 100 stolen garden statues and gnomes. These yard decorations were recovered following a large underage drinking party on July 21st.
The theft of so many of these gnomes had a few residents smiling if not flat out laughing. I am still trying to understand where the funny part is. For those who are amused by the above mentioned actions of some of our local youth, here are some facts related to this event that will quickly turn that smile into a frown. The theft of these items was reported by numerous victims over the past month. All reported basically the same thing; that person(s) unknown entered onto their respective properties during the night and stole these items. Some were religious statues stolen from a local church. One of these statues was broken during the course of the theft. The combined value of these stolen articles is approximately $2,000.00 .
The juveniles that stole these items are extremely fortunate that they were not confronted by a startled homeowner as they were creeping around outside bedroom windows in the middle of the night. There are some people in town who are angry and frustrated about how this situation was handled by police. This event has been described by some as merely a “kid’s prank” or not even a police matter. The theft of anyone’s personal property and juveniles paying $5.00 each to an adult to consume alcohol at a local residence will always be handled as a police matter and those responsible will be charged accordingly.
The homeowner who hosted the party, the adult who supplied the alcohol and the juveniles responsible for the thefts have been charged and now will have to face the music in court. The victims have had their property returned to them and The Sparta Police have moved onto more pressing matters. This episode would normally just quietly go away but it won’t. It will stay alive for quite some time. Why? Because it has been posted on social networking pages and launched onto the internet by some of those that attended the party.
We as adults and parents grew up in a far different world that our children do today. Back in the 1960s, 70s and 80s there was no internet or social networking. When we got in trouble as kids for doing stupid things, only our parents and maybe a few others knew. Information about people was basically spread by word of mouth and nobody believed half the stuff they heard anyway.
In the 21st century, that is not the case…far from it. The internet and social networking services now provides up to the minute documentation complete with pictures and video feed of the mistakes that our kids make. Some of these mistakes can be characterized as immature embarrassing missteps. Others are outright boastful criminal acts.
Now more than ever we have to continue to teach our children about poor decision-making. Now more than ever we have to make our children understand that their lives should not be an electronic open book for a voyeuristic society’s entertainment. Searching a person’s name on the internet at times yields a treasure trove of information and photos. Law Enforcement uses it and so do employers. Now more than ever the mistakes our children make that are memorialized on social networking services may come back to haunt them as young adults looking to enter college, the military or secure a good job.
In most cases in this town, parents do a fabulous job of raising their children and keeping them safe. If there was a book titled “The Success Stories of Children from Sparta” there would have to be hundreds and hundreds of volumes. However, there are chapters being added that you as a parent do not want out there.
You may be alarmed to know that some of the “friends” on your child’s facebook page are not really friends in the true sense of the word. In some cases your child might not even know who some of these “friends” are. In fact they may not even know how old these “friends” are or where they live. But yet these “friends” have front row seats in which to download and distribute personal details and photographs of your child.
As parents we have to maintain some semblance of control over who our children associate with, where they go and what they do. We cannot be pals. We have to be parents first. That is the only way we can keep them safe and provide them an environment for them to flourish and succeed. The July 21st underage party was attended by 125 underage kids. A few were charged but the majority was not. Most of these juveniles were turned over to their parents after speaking with the officers. The Investigating Officers exercised their discretion by determining that for these particular individuals and their limited roles, discipline here, is best handled by the parents. That is how it is supposed to be.
How parents choose to discipline their children for situations such as this is their business. It’s a family matter and a learning process for all. Through this process, parents will find that one way of maintaining control is to start by ensuring that family matters and personal issues are kept within the family and not open to prying eyes on some social network service.
John-Paul Beebe, Sergeant/Public Affairs Officer with the Sparta Police Department, is 52 years old, has been a resident of Sparta Township for 45 years, and has served on the department for the past 24 years. He lives in Sparta with wife Brenda, 13-year-old son Dylan, and daughters Jenna, age 10, and Gracie, age 8.
Prior to being a Police Officer, Beebe served five years in the United Sates Coast Guard, as Public Affairs Specialist Petty Officer 3rd Class.
Beebe is a graduate of the Rev George A. Brown Memorial School, Pope John XXIII Regional High School Class of 79, and attended Seton Hall University.
He is a Journalism and Photo Journalism graduate of the Defense Information School, Fort Benjamin Harrison, Indianapolis, Indiana.
Beebe is the former Assistant Football, Basketball and Track Coach at Pope John XXIII Regional High School. Currently Football Coach and Board Member of Sparta Little League Football.