Last week staff writer Tom Joyce wrote an article about local Internet gambling parlors closing their doors after a series of raids by local authorities on similar establishments in Mount Airy and Surry County. As I was reading his story, before it went to press, before it went online, even before I had finished the article, I knew exactly what sort of reaction it would generate online.
And I was right.
Whenever we run stories about law enforcement breaking up illegal gambling establishments, we get people commenting on our Facebook page or on our website how the police are wasting their time. How authorities are picking on poor, struggling business men just trying to make a living and provide a few jobs in the community. Invariably, those comments will criticize the police and say they should be out addressing drug problems, or other crimes, in the community.
What’s funny is that when we run stories of drug users or dealers being arrested, articles detailing raids on drug production facilities, we see the same sorts of comments — people saying the police are picking on poor, innocent drug users who aren’t hurting anyone else, people who should be left alone.
Funny thing, oftentimes it’s the same people making the comments.
I’m having a hard time understanding this mentality. The police are charged with enforcing the law, whether it’s speeding or traffic regulations, drug rules, or breaking up illegal gambling operations. Local law enforcement agencies don’t write the laws, and it’s not their place to ignore a law because they don’t like it, or because local sentiment is to not enforce a statute.
I, for one, am glad to see the police take drug dealers and users off the street, and I am glad when they break up gambling establishments like the ones they’ve shut down here.
Neither crime is victimless.
With the gambling establishments, I suppose I can feel some sympathy for the rank-and-file people working there. In today’s climate a job is a job, and it would be hard to turn down a regular paycheck even if it’s from an establishment that is largely built upon enticing people to engage in gambling their money in ways that are clearly stacked against them.
Even for the rank and file folks who work there, they have to know when you take a job with a business that is breaking state law, chances are somewhere along the line you’re going to be out of work. That’s what has happened here.
As for the owners, I don’t feel to sorry for them — they were purposefully engaging in a business meant to take money for people and give nothing in return, a business model that’s built on luring folks in with the promise of a big win, the chance at turning their paycheck into something bigger, when the odds are clearly stacked against them. It’s not much different than scammers reaching into your bank account and stealing the money.
If folks have a problem with these laws, and the enforcement of the law, I have two suggestions.
First, work through the legal system. Let your representatives in the General Assembly know just how you feel, why such establishments should be legal, and try to change the laws.
Second, simply move somewhere such businesses are legal.
But don’t be so critical of the police, because they’re doing their job, and in my book, they’re doing it well when the take down these establishments.
John Peters is editor of The Mount Airy News. He can be reached at 33719-1931 or at firstname.lastname@example.org