MODESTO — Modesto's new police chief, Galen Carroll, said that in his two weeks on the job, he has observed a certain level of apathy among residents when it comes to crime.
He said he'd like to see more of an "I'm fed up and not going to take it any more" attitude among Modestans. But an incident Wednesday afternoon wasn't what he had in mind.
A couple who destroyed their own car while trying to catch people who'd broken into another vehicle are the opposite of apathetic. Carroll appreciates their intentions, but said their actions could have resulted in the injury or death of an innocent bystander.
The unidentified couple took matters into their own hands when they saw a man use a baseball bat to smash a car's window and take items from it in a parking lot on Granger Avenue.
They used their car to block the getaway vehicle, but the suspects reversed and rammed into the witnesses' car three to four times.
Once they could get by, the suspects fled and the witnesses gave chase. They went north to Briggsmore Avenue then east across McHenry Avenue, where the witnesses rammed the suspects' vehicle. The impact disabled both cars in front of the north entrance to McHenry Village.
"Before they do something like that, people have to ask themselves: Is it worth hurting an innocent citizen?" Carroll said.
No one was hurt, but in a highly populated area such as McHenry Village, the chances that someone could have been were high. Carroll noted that it could have turned out far differently had the chase launched one of the vehicles into another car or a bus bench on which people were sitting.
More information about the car chase, such as whether either party violated traffic laws or came close to hitting anyone else, was not included in police reports, said Lt. Rick Armendariz. He would not provide the names of the two witnesses.
Two of the three suspects who fled the disabled car were caught and arrested.
Carroll said people should use good judgment in determining their level of involvement in stopping a criminal. He said he isn't opposed to people following suspects while on the phone with police or intervening when a person is being victimized.
The best thing a witness can do is "observe and report," Carroll said. Take note of a license plate, suspect description and anything else that might be useful.
In general, he wants more people to actively get to know their neighbors and establish a neighborhood watch.
He recalls one incident in which a man watched his neighbor's house being burglarized, with televisions and other electronics being carried through the front door. It wasn't until well after the crime had been reported and police had left that the man told his neighbors he had seen someone inside their home.
"Take care of each other," he said. "Don't sit back and wait for someone else to take care of it."
Bee staff writer Erin Tracy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2366. Follow her on Twitter, @ModestoBeeCrime.