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Editorial: Animal Rescues Show Lawrence Cops Care

Despite an environment where morale in the police department is reportedly at an all-time low, Lawrence Township police officers went "above and beyond" Sunday to rescue a family of baby ducks from a storm drain and remove a snake from a home.

A Lawrence Township police officer yesterday morning (Sunday, June 3) rescued a family of ducklings from a storm drain. Three hours later, a different officer removed a snake from a township home.

In the grand scheme of everything that township police do on a daily basis, these two actions weren’t that big a deal.

They’re the kinds of things that cops in Lawrence Township do all the time. But they’re also the kinds of things that most often go unnoticed by the public and unreported by the media.

There certainly won’t be an official police department news release about these two incidents; the only reason I found out about them was because I caught a few snippets of conversation about them over one of the police scanners in my home as my family and I went about our Sunday routine.

But as I drove out to the two incidents (I didn’t get there in time to get photos of the duckling rescue), it dawned on me that these actions are important because they show Lawrence Township cops still care.

It would have been so easy for these officers to stand back and say that they weren’t equipped or trained to the climb down into a dirty storm drain to retrieve some baby ducks or corral a less-than-cooperative snake – particularly when, in the latter case, it was unclear at the time if the reptile was poisonous or not (it was later determined not to be).

Despite an environment where morale in the township police department is reportedly at an all-time low – with and a – these officers yesterday didn’t hesitate to act. They jumped right in and did what needed to be done.

The duckling rescue took place about 11 a.m. yesterday in the parking lot of the David’s Bridal store in the 3300 block of Brunswick Pike (Route 1).

An employee, having gone outside for a smoking break, heard an unusual amount of “quacking” and spotted an adult duck standing at the edge of storm drain in the parking lot. Wandering over to see what was going on, the employee spotted about 15 ducklings at the bottom of the drain, unable to get out, according to police Sgt. Tim Drew.

The employee called police and Officer Matthew Grossi was sent to investigate. The adult duck, believed to be the mother of the ducklings, remained nearby while Grossi tried to remove the metal grate that covered the storm drain.

At first, the grate wouldn’t budge. But Grossi made a second attempt to remove the heavy grate using a Halligan bar – a pry tool, typically used by firefighters, that Lawrence Township police carry in their patrol cars. Aided by a bystander, Grossi was able to lift the grate and slide it clear of the drain.

Grossi then carefully climbed down into the hole and picked up the ducklings one at a time, placing them into a cardboard box that someone brought out from one of the nearby businesses.

The box of ducklings was then carried away from the parking lot to a landscaped area on the side of the David’s Bridal store where they were released and reunited with their mother, Drew said. Grossi, meanwhile, replaced the grate on the drain and returned to the police station to change into a clean uniform.

Later yesterday, shortly before 2 p.m., residents of a home on Fountayne Lane called police to report that they had found a snake in their garage. Officer Richard Laird III was dispatched.

The snake – black and about three feet long – was carefully “coaxed” from the garage by Laird and the homeowner using a snow shovel and a leaf rake. Once outside, the snake slithered to the side lawn of the home and refused to be led any further.

Retrieving from his patrol car a pole snare that police typically use to capture stray dogs, Laird managed to grab hold of the snake. As the angry reptile twisted and turned and tried to strike at the pole, Laird placed it into an empty water ice bucket provided by the homeowner.

The lid was quickly secured. A few moments later, Laird learned from a police dispatcher that – based on his description of the snake – animal control officials did not believe ithe reptile to be poisonous and that it was likely a black racer snake.

Laird later released the snake back into the wild away from any residences.

Again, these two incidents are hardly major news.

Lawrence Township police regularly deal with such situations when animal control officials are not available. From what I’ve been told, township cops over the years have removed bats, raccoons, skunks and other creatures from people’s homes, rounded up loose cows and lamas, and directed bears away from residential neighborhoods.

But with the layoffs of several officers set to take effect in August, and with additional layoffs possible as the township struggles to solve its budget problems, it is likely that the police will not be able to provide such services in the future.

Indeed, , township Police Chief Daniel Posluszny warned that any reduction in police department staffing could mean that some crimes will go uninvestigated.

Those statics showed that overall crime in Lawrence Township went up 24 percent in 2011 in comparison to 2010, and that there was a 41 percent increase in burglaries from 2010 to 2011. A lot of those burglaries took place during summer months.

The weather is getting warmer and, in recent weeks, there have been several new burglaries, including a .

What will happen during the remainder of 2012 is anyone’s guess.

While I am certain that the men and women of the Lawrence Township Police Department will, as always, do their best to protect us, I’m pretty sure that it’s going to be a lot harder for them to do that job with less officers on the force.

With that in mind, we should all do our part to help keep our community safe. Help the cops by keeping your eyes open and reporting any suspicious activity you see. Protect yourself by keeping your doors and windows locked and your valuables out of sight.  

What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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