By Nelson Nix

One of my favorite crime stories came from Chicago. It seems a couple of young men from Indiana drove up to the big city for a good time and soon found themselves short of funds. Although guns are illegal in Chicago, they were packing and quickly selected a vulnerable establishment open at the late hour and announced a robbery.

About 15 police officers promptly arrested the bandits. The boys from Indiana had chosen Dunkin’ Donuts!

Of course, most anyone knows that police officers are not partial to donuts but must take their meals at whatever place is open especially late at night. It is a bit like choosing a roadside restaurant based upon the number of big rigs parked there. The trucks are not an indication of food quality or generous helpings but rather the size of the parking lot.

Everyone has seen the movie “American Graffiti,” which was filled with aspiring young actors coming of age in California. Pranks that confounded the police, clever lines, street racing and cruising were the rage — it was a great movie. And none of the scenes were a surprise to me after growing up in Commerce then going off to the military and cruising San Francisco and California’s marvelous freeways in my roommate’s “Route 66” Corvette.

I remember the words of a CHP officer who counseled, “We just graduated a class of new officers, gave them new Dodge cars with the biggest hemi engine available and a box of sharp pencils. They are all hoping you will try something, so be careful out there.”

Those were far simpler times. At any moment today, an officer may confront an armed felon, a terrorist or drug cartel member, not so much Suzanne Somers in a T-Bird.

Commerce and Jackson County are no different than other locations across the country. Anyone from anywhere can suddenly appear and anything can happen in the blink of an eye. A glance at the incident reports published in this paper reveals a remarkable variety of violations of law for which someone is arrested. All Northeast Georgia police agencies work together, so if you get the need for speed or another misdeed, keep this old police one-liner in mind: “You may outrun the police car but you won’t outrun its Motorola (radio).”

Society today has demanded a no-tolerance approach to drinking and driving. And a police officer can spot an impaired driver with remarkable accuracy. A DUI conviction today is very serious, extremely inconvenient and a very expensive life experience that no one wants to repeat.

The era of the roadside game to see who can crack the best laugh line while spotlighted by take-down lights sadly is over. The Bandit is gone but Smokey is still present for duty. And penalties for teens now reach far beyond the old remedy of calling the parents who would administer the home style version of the death penalty. Commerce is located near a crossroads of US and Interstate Highways bringing headline making incidents here often involving people from faraway places.

Police work is deadly serious and professional officers must be well trained and mentally prepared for it. And they need your cooperation to be fully effective. It is always better to prevent a crime than to make arrests after the fact. Commerce Police reach out to the community in a variety of ways including assigning officers to the schools.

Commerce is fortunate to have a leading law enforcement organization to serve and protect its citizens and visitors backed up by Jackson County Sheriff’s deputies and surrounding agencies. Department officers often train with those of other departments in the many areas of specialization of a modern policy agency. From canine operations to crime scene investigation, drug interdiction, school support and now highway patrol, our police force is prepared to handle whatever comes our way.

When you see our officers, who may be military veterans, thank them for their dedication to duty and their willingness to face danger while keeping the peace around the clock.

Nelson Nix is a retired marketing communications executive. A Commerce native and Commerce High School and University of Georgia graduate, he has lived in the Mid-West and on both coasts.

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