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In one Alaskan fishing village, crime is a laughing matter. It's not the crimes that have residents chuckling so much as how they're written about. The Unalaska crime report is full of eagle aggression and intimate encounters gone awry in the Aleutian Islands.
When Sgt. Jennifer Shockley heads out on patrol each day, she's got the police blotter on her mind. Her goal is to paint a detailed picture of the town's often ridiculous crimes.
"I can only imagine that someone who's never been here would think that this is some kind of Twilight Zone town where every form of human oddity and absurdity exists all at once — exacerbated by alcohol," she says.
Twilight Zone is an understatement.
Since Shockley first started compiling the Unalaska crime report six years ago, she's written about vampire attacks, herds of feral horses chasing down cyclists, and "ravenous prowlers" who steal boxes of handkerchiefs — only to be discovered by the trail of blood and pizza they left behind.
The crime that happens in Unalaska, also known as Dutch Harbor, is innocuous for the most part. That gives Shockley some creative license.
Take this item for example:
A grown man asked an officer to tell his grown dipsomaniac son to go beddy-bye. The officer helped the drunk to bed, but declined the request to feed the family cat on the way out.
Or this one, about a routine animal complaint:
Petite piles of poo prompted protests to police.
While most blotters are dry retellings of a police department's calls, Shockley's are so outrageous that they even make her laugh. She strews her write-ups with words like "ruffian," "sternutation," "belligerent" and "lout," and her storytelling has earned a following larger than the town.
James Mason, the editor of the Dutch Harbor Telegraph and regular publisher of the blotter, says that Shockley has readers across Europe and South America, according to Google Analytics. He describes Shockley's entries as little soap operas and says that they're far and away his most anticipated feature.
"My hits on Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday are the highest of the week, and that's because of the blotter," Mason says.
For her part, Shockley enjoys the positive feedback and gets a kick out of being able to mix a little bit of wordplay into what would otherwise be a dull part of her job. As far as she's concerned, any minor incident is a poem waiting to happen.
"I'm still searching for the perfect palindrome," she says. I haven't found it yet, and I think it's gonna be really, really difficult to do, but I would love to have an entry that's a perfect palindrome."
And one day, Shockley thinks, she'll find a situation out there just waiting to be turned into a limerick.
Reports From The Unalaska Police Blotter
Here are some highlights from Sgt. Jennifer Shockley's crime reports. You can keep up with Unalaska's blotter on KUCB's website.
Theft (20:42, 11/25/11) -- Andrey Bachal, a Russian national and apparent fan of American television, was caught stealing a "Deadliest Catch" t-shirt from Alaska Ship Supply. Bachal, who insisted he had intended to pay for the shirt which he had stuffed inside his zipped-up jacket, was charged with one count of Concealment of Merchandise.
Public Safety (01:46 hrs, 11/9/11) -- Officer watched three extremely intoxicated and giggling louts urinate on the road, on themselves, on one another, and on a taxi in front of the Harbor View Bar. The wet-legged men abashedly explained to the admonishing officer they had been kicked out of the bar before having an opportunity to use the restroom there.
Drunk Disturbance (02:25 hrs, 11/15/11) -- Officers responded to a food fight on board a fishing vessel, where they found that the captain and another man had thrown mashed potatoes, corn dogs and jalapenos at the cook's stateroom door. The captain, who denied involvement until reminded by officers that his shoes were covered with food similar to that found in the hallway, was advised to apologize and treat his crew with more respect.
Animal (15:29 hrs, 11/25/11) -- Caller reported a middle-aged Beagle had walked into her home and stayed there for the last hour. Officers tried unsuccessfully to capture the errant canine, which was retrieved by his owner about three hours later.
Suspicious Person/Activity (17:26, 12/7/11) -- A twitchy bunkhouse resident claimed, among other things, that his housemates have been removing his fingerprints from framed photographs in order to incriminate him in nefarious crimes. An officer advised the man to better secure his personal belongings and suggested that reducing illicit drug use might also reduce his paranoia.
Theft (18:04 hrs, 12/8/11) -- A grocery store patron demanded that she be given a bag of shrimp for which she claimed to have already paid. The patron stalked off with the shrimp after an employee, believing something fishy might be going on, took the matter to a supervisor. Store management elected to handle the matter without police assistance.
Missing Person (10:22 hrs, 12/24/11) -- Captain reported a crewman had not returned to the vessel. The missing crewman, who had been enjoying the company of a lady friend, returned about an hour later.
Domestic Disturbance (00:26 hrs, 12/30/11) -- Drunken boarding house tenant reported that his equally drunken nemesis had taken his cell phone, and he wanted it back. Officers told both sots they would go to jail if they continued behaving toward one another in such a fashion.
Assault (01:51 hrs, 12/30/11) — Yet another boarding house tenant reported being threatened by one of the drunken louts to whom officers had already spent considerable time speaking. The lout told officers he would never say such a thing.
Animal (17:22 hrs, 1/24/12) — An exasperated, exhausted immature eagle which had entrapped itself inside a crab pot was able to fly to safety after an officer climbed a stack of crab pots and cut a raptor-sized hole in the netting.
Welfare Check (19:23 hrs, 2/22/12) -- Caller asked officers to check on two men who were inhaling nitrous oxide from Whippit canisters in the Safeway parking lot. An officer contacted the two men, who claimed they would not be driving after inhaling and would cause no problems this evening.
Trespass (23:06 hrs, 2/22/12) -- Officers responded to a hotel room where the two Whippit boys were disturbing other guests with their raucous behavior. The two men bemoaned the deterioration in the quality of people now living in the community after they were told they were not allowed to return to the hotel premises.
Assistance Rendered (13:56 hrs, 2/24/12) -- Officers responded to the airport regarding a report of a drunken man causing numerous problems in the terminal. Investigation revealed that a single besotted man had roundly cursed airline employees and attempted to pick fights with no less than five people. His last victim, who told officers he was performing a community service, smacked the drunk on the head and then stood over him and told him not to be so rude. None of the victims wished to pursue charges, as they all felt justice had already been served.
Noise Disturbance (00:24 hrs, 3/3/12) — Caller reported hearing a fight in progress at a neighboring residence. A wet woman clad only in a bath towel abashedly explained to responding officers that the "fight" they were investigating at her house was simply loud intimate relations.
Liquor Law Violation (06:32 hrs, 3/23/12) — Officers responding to an alleged assault found two inebriated underage drinkers who both denied having fought with one another, but readily admitted to consuming cheap beer all evening. Both were cited for Minor Consuming.
Animal (13:18 hrs, 3/24/11) — AST rescued a seal that had apparently become stuck on a piece of ice.
Public Safety (23:23 hrs, 3/29/11) — Road-devouring drifts and perilously slick roads prompted issuance of yet another Category1 travel advisory.