When incidents involving middle-of-the-night attacks on unsuspecting motorists started occurring with increasing frequency in May, authorities used the media to tell citizens to be on the look-out.
And the media played the game. It always does. TV stations and the newspapers dutifully put out every details about the crime wave, on the schedule of law enforcement authorities.
If youâ€™re bumped from behind by another car between midnight and 6 a.m. in the north part of Palm Beach County, they said, donâ€™t stop! You could get robbed if you get out. Instead, drive to the nearest police or sheriffâ€™s station to report the accident!
Fast-forward to last week, when Gossip Extra first reported that the gang of robbers was dismantled. Four men (see photo on the right)Â were arrested quietly over the pastÂ month and charged in several of the more than 30 bump-and-run robberies committed.
Had Gossip Extra not reported the story on Oct. 25, the public would have had to wait for anotherÂ three days to find out about the arrests.
Apparently, itâ€™s okay in Palm Beach County to letÂ a worriedÂ public sit and wait for the information it deserves, wants and, ultimately, paid for — especially with a Fourth Estate thatÂ depends onÂ governmental handouts.
Iâ€™m told that members of the task force assigned to the robbery spree â€“ Â West Palm Beach Police, Riviera Beach Police, Palm Beach Gardens Police, Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office and the State Attorney’s OfficeÂ â€“ couldnâ€™t agree on when and where toÂ hold their press conferenceÂ to announce the arrests.
I know, hard to believe. Authorities, including a sheriff and state attorney headed for a reelection campaigns, were willing to leaveÂ constituants in the dark while they tried to wrangle the most political bang for our buck.
The date of the press conference originally was scheduled for Oct. 21. But Riviera Beach Police Chief Clarence Williams couldnâ€™t make. Then it was supposed to happen on Oct. 24. But Sheriff Ric Bradshaw was out of town.
Of course, a press conference couldn’t possibly have gone on with Williams or Bradshaw or anyone else. So, they all decided to wait until Oct. 28 â€“ more than a week after the last alleged member of the criminal gang was arrested.
The Gossip Extra scoop, however,Â made the dog-and-pony show unnecessary — despite the great work and the hours put into it by the investigators who risked their lives in a high-speed chase to catch two of the suspects.
I know how important it is to make political hay on motorists who got robbed.
But my thing is: The publicâ€™s right to know now, not tomorrow, is a hell of a lot more important than politics.