Written by Arnie Fagan
Arnie Fagan thanks police officer for diplomatic handling of a dicey situation
COLUMBIA, 6/18/13 (Op Ed) -- Former Cool Stuff owner and long-time downtown merchant Arnie Fagan has shared a June 15, 2013 letter with the Columbia Heart Beat praising a Columbia police officer for helping settle a dangerous and long-standing problem.
Dear Chief Burton, Deputy Chief Bernhard and Patrol Captain Richenberger,
My wife and I live in our property at 806-810 E. Broadway downtown, and throughout the last 13 years have experienced literally dozens of incidents of trespassing on the roof of our building, often in the wee hours of the night.
In response, I routinely called for non-emergency dispatch from the Columbia Police Department (CPD). Most often the result of these dispatches was my extreme frustration, my wife’s questioning the intelligence of her marital choice, and little else.
Among other problems, these crimes create potentially lethal situations that I have worked diligently to prevent. I even asked my wife for spools of concertina wire fencing as her gift for my birthday--and no, I was not kidding.
However, I have been encouraged in the last few months because of three trespassing incidents that were actually resolved, all by one of your police officers, Nathan Huhn.
Last fall, I confronted two teenagers, who to their great stupidity and peril, had climbed up the gas pipes attached to my building onto the roof above. I photographed them as they climbed down the pipes and fled. I called the police, and despite my less than patient demeanor, Officer Huhn listened calmly, took the photographic evidence and said he would follow up with me. To my shock and surprise he was successful in identifying the trespassers through local high school contacts and spoke with them and their parents. Thanks to the officer’s actions, I believe at least one of those students was likely saved from a spiraling descent into a life of criminality.
Then on May 29, 2013, I confronted a man trespassing on my roof, took his photograph and followed him back to a neighboring building where most of the problems emanate. Two CPD officers questioned residents in that building, gathered additional information, and then Officer Huhn arrived and took a leadership role. Less than an hour later, I was taken to a residence a mile away where I was able to positively identify the trespasser.
A third trespassing incident took place June 13, 2013. Once again, Officer Huhn showed up and spoke with several residents of the problem property. He then offered to contact the owner of the property directly to try to put a stop to these recurring problems of trespass, vandalism and peace disturbance. I agreed that was the best course of action. That evening the officer had a long positive discussion with the owner of the property who closed the rooftop deck the next day--hopefully permanently.
Besides my own obsessive-compulsive personality traits, I am certain that Officer Huhn’s communications and problem-solving skills, his tenacity and professionalism are the elements that brought these three incidents to resolution.
Through the last 30 years of living in Columbia, I have seldom written letters of complaint (though I do acknowledge that those few have been memorable). Even more seldom have I written letters of praise.
Today I write to express my sincerest appreciation to Officer Huhn for his outstanding police work. Please forward a copy to him and Chief Burton.
Cc: Mike Matthes, City Manager
Bob McDavid, Mayor