Letter: Albert Lea community deserves better
Published 10:00 pm Wednesday, August 15, 2018
In 1989, an event changed the childhood of many kids and of parents for generations to come. It seemed from my perspective at the time, that the abduction of Jacob Wetterling, a boy who was just a year older than me and abducted just a few miles away from where I lived, was the pivotal point where society realized kids couldn’t be let out of their parents’ sight. Society lost a little bit of innocence that day. I was the last generation allowed to go to the park with my friends unsupervised. We roamed the streets on our Big Wheels and bikes, oblivious to stranger danger. The following generations were hardly allowed out of their parents’ sights. The fear of child molesters and abduction took hold following the disappearance of young Jacob.
I grow more concerned each time I glance at the Albert Lea Tribune headlines. The word probation jumps out at me. In the context where it concerns me, I read words like felony, molestation, high-speed chase and assault. In those instances, I expect to see the word prison in the place of probation.
Our community has seen people convicted of molesting teenagers, serious assaults, leading police on high speed chases at speeds exceeding 100 mph while under the influence, and others, with only credit for a few days served in jail and probation. Our community had a repeat offender released from prison with an ankle monitor, which he cut off at one point, and was charged with crime after crime while on probation, as he was released, multiple times.
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Our local law enforcement is doing a great job. They work tirelessly doing their job well. If our judges do not take these cases seriously and continue to slap felons on the wrist despite the evidence our officers put before them, it is an injustice. When our officers put their lives on the line to pursue a drunken fool, knowing full well that one wrong turn of the wheel, one innocent motorist’s wrong reaction while being overtaken by a fleeing felon followed by cop cars with lights and sirens blazing, or one moment where the felon could exit the vehicle with a weapon or turn their vehicle into a weapon upon those officers, could change that officer’s life forever, and it is a slap in the face to those officers to tell that felon that their crime only merited a few days in county jail and probation.
I’m not opposed to leniency. Many of us, at one time or another, deserve a break for mistakes. Felonies that endanger the public and put our kids at risk are not mistakes. With the rash of kidnapping attempts in our community, and others nearby, and the other recent crimes we’re seeing, we’re seeing the fallout from leniency for felonies. Our community deserves better. Our officers deserve better. Our children deserve better. Our society that has awakened to monsters like the one that abducted and murdered young Jacob deserve better.