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The Folly of Family-on-Family Crime


Although they exhibit no bylines, the job of turning magisterial district judge reports into stories is shared by Rocket-Courier staff writers, a weekly task that I have found to be both tedious and instructive: tedious because many of the details are embedded in grids on a form that are filled out by the arresting police officer, and informative because the officer’s recounting of the crime as he or she sees it casts an insight into the mind of the common, or not so common, criminal.

The magisterial judge reports and the blurbs from state police reports, which we also edit, have long been popular features of the paper, and we take them seriously. Some evoke laughter because of the sheer stupidity demonstrated by the alleged perpetrators, while others, especially offenses against children, literally turn our stomachs as we write them. I’ve personally learned not to write crime stories before bedtime.

The volume of the reports fluctuates but, most importantly, the filings, when taken as a whole over a series of weeks, can indicate disturbing trends in crime, like the bath salts epidemic that reached a crescendo early in the spring. Since we receive reports from surrounding counties and three of four magisterial districts in Bradford County, we could literally see the bath salts scourge creeping toward us from the north. We decided to devote most of an entire issue to the subject in an attempt to educate our readers on the topic in hopes that we could prevent it from taking hold here.

In the past few weeks, I’ve been working with too many reports concerning family members who prey on each other. There are two in this week’s paper alone. I’m not referring to domestic disputes, of which there are also too many and usually involve alcohol consumption. I’m concerned with the misguided individuals who would break into a relative’s home, steal something, and then sell it.

I don’t care whether it’s firearms, antiques, prescription medications, scrap metal, or flowerpots, for that matter. What I find most troubling is that those reported to have committed such selfish acts are lacking even a shred of respect for someone whom they are likely to see at a wedding, graduation party, or funeral within the next three years. In some of the cases that I’ve written up, the alleged perpetrators were actually guests in the homes that they robbed.

I am not assuming the guilt of any of the defendants about whom we have written, but, even if more than half of these cases result in convictions, this too is an unsettling trend.

The aspect about family-on-family crime that seems apparent is that a new generation of young adults does not appreciate the value of family. Certainly there are instances of abuse, neglect, or other malicious behavior that can result in one losing respect for a particular parent or other family member. But it is rare that someone finds him or herself with no family support whatsoever. That said, there is usually someone there to “pick up the pieces” if a familial relationship turns sour.

Two things, however, confound me about the stories that I have composed from the police and magisterial district judge reports on this matter. How does one expect to get away with the crime when he or she is so close to it? And, if he or she is caught or implicated in the crime, is there an assumption that the repercussions will somehow be less serious if the offense was not committed against a stranger instead?

There are some countries in the world where religious law dictates that crimes against family members, especially parents and grandparents, result in even greater penalties than offenses against strangers. Luckily, the individuals about who I am writing today live in America, where disrespectful fools such as these are considered innocent until proven stupid.

There was a time when we were expecting schools to fill in the gaps left by slacker parents, and educators initially rallied to save our children and to produce well-rounded young adults who had a sense of respect for everything that the rest of us deemed to be important. The unfortunate present-day truth of that matter is that teachers have been reverted to an academics-intense curriculum that allows little time for providing the nurturing that some children are not receiving at home. Educators have been relegated to manufacturing smart kids that can obtain test scores high enough to prevent their school from being blacklisted for poor performance.

So, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and older siblings—the onus has once again been cast onto your shoulders, where it should have been all along. Please talk to the children, teens, and young adults in your lives about the value of family. Help them to understand that, while they may never get along with—or even understand—every person who is related to them, there will always be someone there called “family” who will listen and provide support when it is needed, whether it be a safe haven or good advice.

Perhaps this will help them to become the kind of adults who will respect, if not provide similar support, for other family members, especially those who seem to be lost in this sometimes crazy world.


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