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False Alarm Brings Out SMPD Weapons, Potentially Dangerous Behavior 

Friday, October 24, 2008

Shortly after 4:30pm this afternoon, members of SMPD responded to a panic-hold up robbery alarm at Charlotte's Jewelry at 40 N. Baldwin Ave. which did not reset.  SMPD had to respond as if an armed robbery was taking place.  It was a false alarm and they did not realize that it had gone off.  The owner assumed it was triggered while cleaning.  Customers at Beantown, Village Pizza and other area stores were cleared out, as officers were responding with rifles at the ready.  Complicating the operation was the fact that the Halloween window painting was going on downtown, meaning lots of extra kids in the area.  For some reason, kids and parents alike failed to recognize the gravity of the situation, and many made no effort to get out of harm's way and to allow the officer's to do their job.  At the south end of the operation, I noticed one adult standing within a few feet of the officer responding, with two kids next to him that appeared to be under the age of ten, and he made no effort to take the kids out of a potentially very dangerous situation (see video).  In preparing this story, I contacted Capt. Larry Giannone of SMPD, who suggested I might encourage my readers to be a little more aware of the circumstances in the future.  I thought his message was important enough to publish it as I received it.  Here's what he had to say.  "One of the things you can put out if you are going to write something about this or this type of activity is to tell your readers that when officers are in a situation where their weapons are drawn, our focus is on the event and the safety of those around it.  We had several kids following one of the officers while he was trying to (get) into a safe position and focusing on the business and asking “what is going on”.  One lady actually came up and interrupted me while I was directing the units who were surrounding the building.  She asked me what was going on and if she should get the children out of the area.  I would just urge the readers when they see something like this to use common sense and get out of the way, get to a safe place, have others get to safe place, and please do not interrupt the officers to ask “what is going on”.  If our weapons are drawn it is for a reason.  We know people are curious and we are always happy to answer those questions once the situation is done and weapons are put away.  This also goes to the other day when our pursuit was taking place.  (Editor's note - see article at top of next column). People kept calling the police desk and just asking what was going on and why the helicopter was circling.  This really distracts the desk officer from his or her duties.  In cases like this, the one or two desk officers that may be on are overwhelmed for a brief period of time dealing with the emergency at hand and other emergencies that may be coming in. Once again, common sense safety is lock your doors and stay inside until the helicopter leaves.  Then if you want to call the desk to see if it is OK to open the doors or leave your residence we will be happy to give the caller some direction at that time.  I just want to stress if you have an emergency or crime problem at hand by all means call us…if you just want to know what is going on we are happy to answer the citizens' questions with any information that we can release to the public, but would really like to do so when things are calmed down and we have adequate time to deal with the public appropriately..."



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