Not Their Problem - or - Ravi and Me
I live in Shorewood, about a half-block outside of Milwaukee. A 15-second walk south from my house leaves me standing on a street under the combined jurisdiction of the Shorewood, Milwaukee and UW-Milwaukee Police Departments. Because this street marks a border for two of the departments (the UWM police have county-wide jurisdiction) and it serves as a "turn-around" point during their patrols, it isn't unusual to see a squad from each of the three departments at the same intersection all at once. If ever you wanted to see a high concentration of law enforcement from multiple departments, this would be the place.
A few mornings ago I noticed a Honda scooter on its side, up against a stop sign, in the yard of a large expensive home on the south (Milwaukee) side of the street. Over the course of the next few days the scooter remained in that spot. Knowing that the folks who live in these homes will rarely allow a stray leaf to stay on their lawns for more than an hour or so, it was odd that this scooter had been there so long. When I saw that it was still there last night, unmoved, I thought it was time for me to do something other than just observe.
Here was my assumption: the bike had been stolen and abandoned at this location. Maybe the intention wasn't so much for someone to get themselves a free scooter. Maybe it was just the result of some drunk college students thinking they were being funny as they stumbled home from the bars. Either way, having been the victim of property theft before, I thought of how much I would have appreciated it if someone were to have done something should they have encountered my stolen items. The boy scout in me was starting to take over.
Because I have the Shorewood P.D.'s non-emergency number programmed into my phone for night-parking permission and since I was standing over the scooter at that very moment ready to give an exact description of the vehicle and where it was located, and in spite of the fact that I knew full-well it was actually sitting in Milwaukee, I thought giving the old Village a call would be the easiest thing to do.
"Yeah," said the Shorewood dispatcher, "we know about that. Unfortunately it's in Milwaukee. You'll need to give them a call."
Alright. There wasn't much they could do about it. And I didn't have a non-emergency number for the Milwaukee police readily available. So I headed home thinking that at least I tried.
But as the night wore on the scooter never left my mind. Obviously some residents from the Shorewood side of the street had raised their concerns with the Shorewood police. And I couldn't imagine that the people who lived in the home outside of which the scooter sat would have appreciated the sight enough to not do anything about it. Perhaps they had been out of town. Or, as I would soon find out, maybe they had made a call to the Milwaukee P.D. only to find just how futile the effort would be.
I contacted Milwaukee's 5th District police station and explained the situation. I was transferred to their dispatcher who then transferred me to the night-parking desk.
"Plate number, please."
"I'm not calling in a car for parking," I responded. "I'm calling because I think a scooter lying on its side at Edgewood and Hackett may have been stolen and is abandoned there."
"What's the address?"
"I don't have the exact address, but it's at the 2700 block of east Edgewood."
And then the fun started.
"That isn't in Milwaukee," replied the night-parking operator.
Now I knew for a fact that this was Milwaukee. I've received parking tickets at that very location, and they had City of Milwaukee written all over them.
"It's on the south side of the street," I answered. "That's Milwaukee."
"According to our system, it isn't."
Apparently I had discovered some sort of magical nexus to which the laws of no municipality applied. It wasn't Shorewood. It wasn't Milwaukee. For a fleeting moment I considered making a flag and laying claim to this no man's land as my own little country. I was going to contest every parking ticket I'd ever received there since it was evident nobody (except for, very soon, me) had the authority to issue one. Instead, I decided to become a more exacting pest.
I put the dog on the leash and went for a walk up to the scene where the scooter, which I felt was now starting to recognize me, sat as prostrate as it was the last time we saw one another. I noted the exact address of the house outside which Ravi (that's the name I had given the scooter) sat. I dialed the 5th district once again.
And was transferred to the dispatcher.
And was transferred to night-parking.
But this time I was prepared. I had an exact address. Certainly they couldn't deny this little spot of grass was within the city limits with an exact address. There was no way they could possibly ignore my concerns now.
"That isn't in Milwaukee."
"Alright then," I countered, "can you tell me then in which town I'm standing?"
"I don't know. But it isn't Milwaukee."
I hung up. But although I may had been down, I was far from beat. As God is my witness, I would get to the bottom of this case.
"Yes, I called before about a scooter that seems to be abandoned at the corner of Hackett and Edgewood. Now, I know it's in Milwaukee, but the Milwaukee police say it isn't so it's not their problem. Look, I realize this is outside your jurisdiction, but it's really bugging me that nobody wants to take care of this. The way I look at this is that this scooter is someone's mode of transportation. It's how they get around. It's probably worth a couple of grand. And if it had been stolen from me, I'd sure as hell hope that someone, anyone, would do something about it if they saw it just lying in the street."
"Sir, there's not much we can do, but I'll send a car over there now."
In less than five minutes, two Shorewood squad cars and three Shorewood police officers had joined me standing over Ravi. One of the officers had called in the VIN and discovered that it was registered to someone living a dozen or so blocks to the south and a few blocks to the west. He jumped back into his car and headed for that address to find out if anyone there was missing a scooter.
The officers explained to me there was little they could do because the scooter was in Milwaukee, and if a crime had been committed their involvement may lessen the chances of being able to press charges. I asked why Milwaukee was so adamant about denying this all took place within the city limits. One officer sort of laughed.
"With everything else they've got, they probably didn't want to deal with it."
This morning, Ravi was gone. I'd like to think he was back with his owner, and if not, at least safe in the hands of the Shorewood police. I think I'll miss him.
Kudos to the Shorewood P.D. This truly wasn't their problem, but they solved it nonetheless.
And if you want to find me, just stop by the corner of Hackett and Edgewood, or, as it's soon to be known, Caspervania.
A reader pointed out that I should have been calling Milwaukee's 5th district, not the 4th. Truth is, I was calling the 5th district, which is located on 4th street. By the time I got to writing the post, I simply got the two mixed up. Thanks to Amy for bringing my error to light. I've since corrected the post.