Thursday, July 16, 2009

And Justice for All

One of the greatest things about living in a small town is the low crime rate.  There are very few murders or serious violent crimes in comparison to larger communities.  Random acts of violence are extremely rare.  Our greatest risk of a stray bullet comes during hunting season when most of us know to stay out of the woods.
Our worst neighborhoods in Venango County are no more threatening than an average neighborhood in many cities.  This is a safe place to live.  Our police departments generally do a very good job of targeting dangerous drug activity, burglary, traffic problems and obvious criminal activity.  You can pretty much count on them to respond when you see something suspicious.  
About 5 years ago, I was dropping off a U-haul trailer in Franklin in the wee hours of the morning.  Within minutes, a Police cruiser pulled in to see what I was doing.  They were very polite but it's a good thing I had documentation to support my story that I was dropping the trailer off and not stealing it.  I respect that and feel safer in my home knowing they are watching.
But it has come to my attention, Venango County is vulnerable to one category of crime - white collar crime and fraud.  Often, these crimes require forensic accounting which is a specialty field all it's own.
According to sources in the DA's office, there are few resources available in Venango County to dedicate to this type of crime and if you follow the court cases in recent years, that rings true.  Only a few cases of fraud or related white collar crime have appeared in our court system.  Does that mean we don't have white collar crime or that we are ill equipped to handle it?  I believe it is the latter.
A ten year old report from the Department of Justice shows that white collar crime is on the rise nationwide.  Is Venango County prepared to deal with this issue? (
When fraud and related white collar crime is brought to the attention of law enforcement and the justice system in Venango County, how is it handled?  How do the police determine when and if they will actually investigate?  Is it based on who is filing the complaint?  Is it based on the dollar amount involved?  Is it based on whether or not the person is willing or able to file a civil suit?  Is it based on gender, relationship to the defendent or some other criteria?  Is it based on resources available to investigate?  There must be a criteria - official or unofficial.
The law is the law.  What is often in question is enforcement of the law.  It's an important question to pose for Venango County.  If we want to remain a safe place to live, we need also to be a safe place to do business - as a consumer and as a business or service provider.
It is an important side of our legal system that has to be addressed.
Meanwhile, the best option is prevention.  Pennsylvania offers a great resource to check the court related history of people within PA.
You can check by participant name and county.  Information is limited but with a docket number, you can then go to the local court house and obtain more public information.  
Another valuable link is
When it comes to fraud, don't get caught up in the legal system.  Don't make big decisions without a lot of research.  The wheels of Justice turn very slowly and may not be readily available in some cases.   Especially if you don't have great determination and strength.

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