Looking Back at Local Crime

A recent social-media discussion suggesting that crime is running rampant (the contributor’s words, not mine) hereabouts has prompted me to do some research into the history of crime in our idyllic village. A perusal of yellowed newspaper clippings pasted into my grandmother’s scrapbook reveals that crime is not a stranger to Mattapoisett.

            The 1950s were hard hit, especially local liquor stores.

            Freddie’s Package Store on Route 6 reported a break-in, resulting in a loss of $900 worth of liquor and cash. The break-in was the fifth in town in 10 days.

            Earlier, a lone gunman “masked with a red-and-white bandana” held the proprietor of the Village Package Store at bay while absconding with $154 in cash. The owner described the “thug” as “very short, about 5 feet, 6-inches tall, with dark, deep-set eyes.”

            According to the newspaper article, the owner thought the gun was a toy and told the robber to reveal himself, whereupon the bandit said ‘’I’m not kidding, this is a real stickup” and proceeded to order the victim into a back storage room. A sign on the store window failed to ward off the culprit. It said “Warning – burglar alarm. Automatic call to police.” By the time police arrived, the culprit had vanished.

            According to then Police Chief Alden Kinney, there were 56 arrests in 1956: seven for breaking and entering, many for public drunkenness, automobile violations and one for “selling a horse unfit for work.” While crime was up slightly from 54 arrests in 1955, breaking-and-entering offenses were down from 30 the previous year.

            The police were not immune from the rash of thievery. One patrolman returned from vacation to find his home had been broken into. One hundred dollars in cash and a wristwatch had been stolen, plus his .38 caliber police revolver.

            More crimes of note were solved, thanks to good, investigative work and a hot tip from within the community. Youngsters were the culprits in these offenses. Police were tipped off that youth in town were carrying around guns. The youths in question were quickly apprehended and the weapons destroyed.

            They were found to be made from cap pistols, copper tubing, friction tape and rubber bands … also known as zip guns capable of firing .22 caliber bullets. Had these youngsters taken the weapons-safety course at the famous firing range in the basement of Center School, they would surely have known better.

            The police chose not to bring charges since the juveniles “came from well-respected families.” Chief Kinney gave the youths “a good talking to in the presence of their parents,” and no further gun-making activities were reported.

            Chief Kinney’s diligence and keen observation skills paid off in another break-in. Thieves broke a window and stole two rifles and bullets from the Sea Chest store on Route 6. The owner, John Anderson, reported the theft. Chief Kinney was outside the store at the start of the investigation when he saw the heads of two boys through a window.

            The nine- and 11-year-olds from Fairhaven were apparently hiding inside the building when Mr. Anderson opened the store in the morning. The weapons were recovered, and the boys were charged at Wareham Juvenile Court. There was no mention of how the boys managed to make their way from Fairhaven.

            Dastardly deeds were not limited to the 1950s. A perusal of old town records revealed other more “serious” offenses, and the populous were prepared to protect the village from any future shenanigans.

            In 1862, a Town Meeting article requested the town “prohibit playing ball or passing, throwing and catching or kicking footballs from Main Street to Mechanic Street.” In 1868, it was voted “to instruct the selectmen to offer a reward of $20 (worth about $500 today – the average income in 1868 was $700 per year) for information as shall lead to the conviction of any man, woman, boy or girl breaking glass in town.”

            I could not find any records of whether these crimes were actually committed or prosecuted.

            Rest assured, social-media concerns notwithstanding, our professional Police Department and conscientious citizens will continue to protect our fine town from any rampant crime sprees as has historically been the case.

            Editor’s note: Mattapoisett resident Dick Morgado is an artist and retired newspaper columnist whose musings are, after some years, back in The Wanderer under the subtitle “Thoughts on ….” Morgado’s opinions have also appeared for many years in daily newspapers around Boston.

Thoughts on …

By Dick Morgado

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