Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Policing Insular Communities

There have been a number of stories out this past weekend about a weird case of Amish on Amish violence. People don't ordinarily associate the normally placid Amish with crime, they are more likely to be depicted in a Christian romance novel than in a police procedural. But in spite of their normally law abiding reputation, they are occasionally the victims or even the suspects in crimes.

A local Ohio news website has a pretty good rundown of the attacks and subsequent investigations.

In Carroll County on Tuesday, a group of Amish men knocked on a door of an Amish man's home, pulled him out by his beard and tried to cut off his beard, reports state. The attackers referred to themselves as part of the Bergholz Clan, according to the Carroll County Sheriff's Office.

In Holmes County on Tuesday, a group of Amish men burst into a home and cut the hair off men and women inside and cut the beards off the men. Holmes County Sheriff Timothy Zimmerly said the victims included a 13-year-old girl and a 74-year-old man.

While most law enforcement agencies may not have the Amish living in their community, they may have other equally insular sub-cultures living in their communities. For example in the sleepy little burg where I work we have an large number of Korean immigrants. It's not unusual to see signs written in Hangul in nearly any part of town.

Insular communities can pose challenges for law enforcement. In these communities, it's often difficult to get them to report when they are victims of crime or to cooperate with the subsequent investigations. Finding adequate translation services also can pose a problem.

It is very important to identify and reach out to these groups before they become victims of crimes if you are going to adequately serve them. Often times, even modest efforts at outreach can pay huge dividends later.

What insular communities reside in your jurisdiction? What are you doing to encourage a dialog between them and your agency?

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