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South Shore fishermen partner with scientists to protect spawning cod‏

Wednesday, January 8th, 2014
SCITUATE — Local fishermen have always known that cod return to the waters off the South Shore to breed this time every year – clustering in large numbers, spawning and providing our best hope of a future for healthy cod populations.

Now, scientists and fishermen are working together to use an “E-Z Pass for fish” to gather data about fish behavior, to better protect this iconic species and the communities that depend upon it.

Concerned commercial fishermen from the South Shore sought out scientists from The Nature Conservancy, the Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game’s Division of Marine Fisheries (MADMF), the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, to help them map out exactly when and where spawning occurs, with the goal of protecting local cod during their spawning season.

“South Shore fishermen approached us to help protect these spawning cod with the future of the fishery in mind, and the collaborating researchers jumped at the chance to work closely with them,” said Chris McGuire of The Nature Conservancy in Massachusetts.

Over the next few weeks, local fishermen, working with scientists from MADMF and UMass Dartmouth’s School for Marine Science and Technology (SMAST), will hook spawning cod, implant electronic tags and then release the fish back into the sea. The project’s goal is to protect these local fish during spawning, as they are particularly vulnerable during this period.

Local fishermen are now seeing cod only during their spawning season in the late fall and early winter, whereas they used to be abundant for much of the year, explained Frank Mirarchi, who has fished from Scituate Harbor since 1962 and has personally witnessed a decline in cod abundance. Because such factors as warmer seawater and increased predation have made the fishing business on the South Shore ever more uncertain, his son has recently made the difficult choice to leave the fishery, Mirarchi said.

“We hope to provide these fish with protection while they’re vulnerable,” Mirarchi said. “The expectation is that we can provide discrete, small protected areas which will not be disruptive to fishing, while helping the cod stock to recover.”

Each electronic tag, once deployed, emits a coded sound roughly once a minute for up to six years, a signal that’s recorded whenever the fish passes within range of a network of receivers deployed on the sea floor by MADMF. Each tag has a unique acoustic signature, allowing scientists to track individual fish using the more than 3 million pings each tag will emit over its lifetime.

“It’s sort of like an E-ZPass for fish,” McGuire said.

This information allows researchers to visualize the behavior of each fish while on the spawning grounds, and exactly when they leave which is needed for defining a seasonal closure and also to better understand spawning behavior, he explained.

“The tagging technology has been an excellent tool for studying spawning cod in Massachusetts Bay and our improved understanding of their behavior will help to inform stock assessment and fishery management for rebuilding the resource and the fishery,” said Doug Zemeckis, SMAST collaborator and PhD student at UMass Dartmouth.

“Cooperative research like this effort involving fishermen, government agencies and environmental organizations is vital to improving fisheries management for species like Atlantic cod,” said Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game Commissioner Mary Griffin.

“Our work tagging and tracking Gulf of Maine cod in Massachusetts Bay over the past decade has greatly improved the understanding of cod behavior and movement patterns when spawning,” said Paul Diodati, Director of the Division of Marine Fisheries and Massachusetts Marine Fisheries Institute Co-Chair.

“The importance and biological significance of small discrete spawning groups to the overall health of the resource is much clearer today because of our past work and it has aided in refinement of fisheries management strategies. We look forward to making additional advances in research as result of this new collaborative effort in Massachusetts Bay,” Diodati said.

Researchers are also recording the grunting sounds that male cod make to defend their territories and to attract females. Underwater microphones, deployed by NOAA scientists from the Northeast Fisheries Science Center, will record fish vocalizations, which can be used to characterize the timing of the winter spawning period, as well as the relative abundance when compared to past data. Federal researchers from the Northeast Fisheries Science Center and the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary use this same equipment to monitor whales.

“Passive acoustics – or listening for cod sounds ­– is an ideal way to monitor the seasonal presence and persistence of cod spawning aggregations over long time periods,” explained Sophie Van Parjis, of the Passive Acoustic Research Group at NOAA’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center in Woods Hole, MA.

“Passive acoustic recorders can listen continuously for up to six months, regardless of weather conditions. We are currently looking at historical data for this area (2004-2014), to look at how the presence of cod has changed over time. In addition, our passive acoustic recordings will help define the start and end of the spawning season, so we can more accurately define the time period needed to protect these aggregations,” Van Parjis said.

Atlantic cod is central to Massachusetts history – fishing helped build the state’s economy and remains an important industry. However, the cod population has seen steep declines in the last 20 years and despite drastic measures to reduce fishing pressure, remains at historic lows. This year, local fishermen faced a devastating 78 percent cut in the Gulf of Maine cod annual catch limit, which has severely impacted fishermen across the Bay State.

Ultimately, the fishermen and scientists will bring the spawning data to the New England Fisheries Management Council to inform future management decisions designed to care for this valuable cod population.

“This groundbreaking, collaborative effort between commercial fishermen, Massachusetts’ scientists, and the environmental advocacy community is a perfect example of a forward-thinking partnership that is needed to bring critical answers to the groundfish industry,” said Congressman Bill Keating, who represents the South Shore, South Coast, and Cape and Islands.

“With this project, we will truly come to understand and better predict the natural habits of cod and advance our industry by better protecting spawning populations and further restoring this vital stock. I applaud The Nature Conservancy and its partners for this initiative.”

Video assets, including b-roll and brief field interviews are available at: https://vimeo.com/naturenewengland

High-resolution photos are available for download upon request, and a sampling of photos can be viewed at:http://www.nature.org/ourinitiatives/regions/northamerica/unitedstates/massachusetts/explore/ma-cod-tagging-slideshow.xml

Partners in this project include: South Shore commercial fishermen, The Nature Conservancy in MassachusettsMassachusetts Division of Marine FisheriesUniversity of Massachusetts Dartmouth School for Marine Science and Technology, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center, and the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary.

 

Cold enough for ya? It is for your dog!

Tuesday, December 31st, 2013

By Alisa Mullins

I like to joke that my rescued greyhound, Jasper, is like a canine Barbie doll. He has an outfit for every occasion: two fleece jackets, a lightweight winter coat, a heavyweight winter coat, a raincoat and even pajamas. I sometimes get ribbed by friends about Jasper’s extensive wardrobe, but greyhounds, like other short-coated dogs, are extremely sensitive to the cold.

Unfortunately, not all animals are as well-outfitted to withstand winter weather as Jasper is. PETA’s Community Animal Project fieldworkers encounter animals all winter long who are suffering outdoors. Dogs are often tied up outside 24 hours a day, sometimes with nothing more than a card table, a plastic carrier or an overturned trashcan for shelter. Some dogs have no shelter whatsoever, even in freezing temperatures and blinding snowstorms.

One example of the latter is Noel, a starving pit bull mix who was found by PETA fieldworkers tethered to the trunk of a holly bush and shivering violently in the December cold. Noel had no shelter, no water and no food unless you count the few pieces of kibble scattered on the ground, out of her reach. PETA rushed her to a vet, who estimated that she was roughly half her healthy weight.

Sadly, Noel’s case is not unique. In December, PETA assisted with the rescue of a dog in Nebraska who had been left outside during a snowstorm and had icicles dripping from his face.

That same month, two dogs froze to death after being dumped outside the Terre Haute, Ind., animal shelter after hours during a cold snap.

A stray cat named Trooper was found frozen to a driveway in Newfoundland after apparently being hit by a car and breaking his hip. His body temperature was so low that it didn’t register on a thermometer. His tail and one leg had to be amputated because of frostbite.

A kitten dubbed Rocky Balboa by Sioux City, Iowa, shelter staff because of his fighting spirit was found near death, frozen to a garbage can.

Two dead pit bulls were found frozen to the ground—one in Memphis, Tenn., and the other in Philadelphia, Pa.—after neighbors called police. ”It makes me want to cry. I hate animal cruelty. … [I]t hurts my heart,” said one neighbor.

Dogs may have fur coats, but they are not immune to the cold any more than a person wearing a coat would be if he or she were to sit outside on the frozen ground all day. Many dogs, including short-haired breeds such as pointers and pit bulls, young or elderly dogs and small dogs such as Chihuahuas, dachshunds and beagles, are even less able to handle the cold than humans are. As Indianapolis animal control staffer Dawn Contos says, if it’s too cold for a human to be comfortable outside, even with a coat on, ”It’s probably too cold for your dog to be outside.”

Stray, feral and “outside” cats are also at risk. One stray cat in Boston was found suffering from frostbite so severe that one of her ears fell off while she was being transported to the animal shelter.

Neglected and abandoned animals need our help in order to survive. Stray and feral cats should be captured and taken indoors. If a dog is being denied adequate food, water or shelter, please alert authorities right away.

In Noel’s case, a call from a concerned neighbor saved her life, and her abusive owner was charged and banned from ever owning animals again. Today, Noel is thriving in her new home. She may not have quite as many coats as Jasper has, but she never has to worry about being left out in the cold again.

 

Ring in 2014 with a promise to help someone in Worcester!

Monday, December 30th, 2013

By Laurie Tigan, Literacy Volunteers of Central Mass executive director

Happy New Year, it’s time again to make a resolution. If you are sitting on the fence, or on a couch or in a place of ennui Volunteering might just get you kick started for a wonderful new year. There are so many causes to think about, homelessness, hunger, domestic violence, animal cruelty, the environment, youth and social justice. What are you waiting for?

One of the greatest aspects of volunteerism is that there are so many different ways to get involved. And it’s not just Baby Boomers who are doing it, although they make up the largest percentage of volunteers. Coming from Worcester’s high schools and colleges thousands of students are doing community service. Some of the activities like cleaning up neighborhoods, planting community gardens and shoveling snow for homebound elderly prove that Worcester is a city with a heart. To get a gist of just how many opportunities there are to get involved in check out the volunteering options on Craigslist, The United Way or RSVP websites. It is surprising.

Volunteers feel good. Despite the fact that not only do they not get paid but it often costs them to participate in their nonprofit work. Volunteers pay for gas, parking, and food on the job. They often contribute monetarily to their organization as well. But it is rare to find a grumpy volunteer. Doing something that makes a difference is what compels most people to get involved. Putting boots on the ground rather than sitting on the sidelines is something that motivates overprivileged folks to give that extra effort to help others who might be underprivileged. Click to continue »

Morgan’s Moves: See you in 2014!

Saturday, December 28th, 2013

By Edith Morgan

The holiday season began on Halloween this year, with Christmas decorations crowding the witches, ghouls, pumpkins, and costumes on the shelves. Advertisements and various other enticements to buy, buy, buy and layaway if you don’t have the cash now, crowd my mailbox, fall out of the newspaper, and shout at me from TV and radio.. And so begins the mad race toward the New Year, with its promise of a respite – even if only because of the cold and snow….and the yearly task of making resolutions.

This year has been quite unusual for me: for the first time since 1888, the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah came very early – starting on the eve before Thanksgiving. Never before have I lit the candles while preparing the Thanksgiving turkey. And never before have we had matzo ball soup and latkes (potato pancakes) with our sweet potatoes, stuffing, pies, and whipped cream….But as the eight days wore on, it was a great transition heading toward Christmas and the new year. For some time, I have been feeling that the time between Halloween and the new year was one of constant rushing around, and I have even joked that we ought to move one or both holidays father apart so we who host family gatherings can get a breather in between, and stop to think and plan at a more leisurely pace.

By the time you read this, it will all be pretty much over – but perhaps we can learn something for next year. Maybe we can begin to reclaim the holidays from the commercial interests, and return them to being family-centered, neighborhood celebrations, without having to go broke buying so many things we do not need or want. Perhaps we can think about which gadgets we really need, or even just want, and use our money to better purpose. And perhaps those of our family members who work could have the holidays off so they can spend some time becoming re-acquainted with each other, engage in the lost art of good conversation, share ideas and experiences – or maybe just think and plan for the next year.

Would the economy tank if we made things ourselves, recycled things we think others could use, and gave of ourselves and our time throughout the year? Could we spend time getting to know our neighbors, reconnecting with those who have moved away, and keeping in touch regularly in person, rather than via the impersonal and public media ? I still rejoice far more over a card or letter, that someone took the time and effort to think through and write, than the hundreds of e-mails, facebook, tweets, and other machine-messaging, that pass for communication today..

And so, I will be spending time between now and the New Year, sending out cards, letters and pictures, handwritten, with personal notes, to as many as I can . At my age (83) it will take a little longer, but I hedge my bets by sending “Season’s Greetings” in case I can’t get it all done before Valentine’s
Day.

But to all of you who are readers of InCity Times, I wish the happiest, most peaceful and healthy holidays and the greatest year in 2014!

Circus animal abuse …

Friday, December 27th, 2013

click here to learn more …

- R. T.

Ron’s urban diary: Merry Christmas, Worcester Police Officer Thomas Daly!

Friday, December 27th, 2013

By Ron O’Clair

I am pleased to have spoken with you yesterday outside the “ground zero” property that I have managed for the last decade as the Building & Property Superintendent of 703-711 Main Street. I had been watching activity from the front seat of my vintage 1995 Chevrolet full size van with 56,565 original miles when you had passed by my block on your way around to end up coming down Charlton Street, where I motioned you to a stop as I was exiting my vehicle.

I thought at first glance that you were Officer Jon Kachadoorian, whom I have come to know from my route, and who is an exceptional example of Worcester’s finest. I authored him a nice letter of commendation for the assistance he provided to me when my other vehicle, the 4X4 GMC pick-up with the minute mount plow had been broken into and I caught one of the crack whores that frequent my neighborhood asleep inside what had been a locked vehicle until I caught her inside and yanked her out by her feet. The story was in one of the 4 editions of the InCity Times that I gave you to read for your enjoyment.

I was pleased that you took a couple of minutes out of your busy day to speak with me, and I truly enjoyed the experience. It is refreshing to note the recent change of attitudes displayed as regards me by the various members of the department that I have been trying to enlist as allies in my crusade to retake the streets in my area from the criminal conspiracy to traffic narcotics that has been an ongoing problem here for the entire decade of my responsibility as the building superintendent, and seven more years that I was a resident of the rooming house before that.

It was not always so, and I have the chapters to prove it.

We are all in this together, and need to work together to turn the tide for a better future for the City of Worcester, which I hope to make the first community in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to be able to succeed where so many others have failed utterly to maintain the peace, restore civility in the streets, and make the streets safe for all to use and enjoy without fear as they go on about their legal and lawful business.

It is my plan to bring the different factions that are working very hard, each in their own unique way to lead the lost sheep that despoil my neighborhood back into the fold, in a united effort to combine forces and work together towards the common goal of rehabilitation and treatment of the drug and alcohol addicted who are a continual drain on the resources of the various agencies, yet repeatedly relapse back into the same old routine after incarceration or treatment for their addictive behaviors.
The majority of these people pick up the needle or the crack pipe the very same day they are returned to the streets of our community after a period of forced withdrawal via arrest and detainment for one violation of the law or another in the long list of crimes they commit daily to support their drug habits.

The way it is now, all these factions are pulling in different directions, and it is as if we were in a round lifeboat in a sea of anarchy, with everyone pulling away from everyone else in chaos, getting the boat nowhere fast. The plain and simple truth of the matter is that the addicted take the handouts meant to help them, and find ways to use the assistance to further their addiction, rather than get clean and sober. Whatever they receive in the way of well meaning help is turned into revenue to buy more drugs.

The only way treatment will ever work, is that you have to get the addicted to want to change, and to better themselves with an invasive program of recovery aimed at enabling them to see that there is hope for a better future, and that they are all worthy of redemption.
It is a multifaceted enigma that has boggled the best minds in the business as to how to go about the task. I have spent the better part of my life studying the human condition, and have much knowledge acquired at great cost to me in personal sacrifice. Having over thirty years in the fellowship myself, I have seen and heard every excuse there is for why people continue to destroy themselves with alcohol and drug abuse.

I will safely estimate that over 85% of the crime that goes on daily in our City of Worcester can be laid squarely on the doorstep of drug and alcohol addiction, and the continual struggle to feed the habits of the drug addicted. There is a vast underground economy that revolves around stolen goods and services that are bartered for drugs.

There has emerged a counterculture that is so wrapped up in the throes of addiction since the introduction of crack cocaine to the mix of available drugs being sold on the streets of our fair city. I see them each and every day and night from my perch here with the birds eye view at ground zero. It does not take a rocket scientist to know what they are doing, and they have become so brazen that you can not only see them in the act, you can hear them making the deals out in the open with no fear of being apprehended. Click to continue »

Animals are sacred

Tuesday, December 24th, 2013

By Deb Young

The origins of animal worship have been the subject of many theories.
The classical author Diodorus explained the origin of animal worship by
recalling the myth in which the gods, supposedly threatened by giants, hid
under the guise of animals.
The people then naturally began to worship the animals that their gods had
disguised themselves as and continued this act even after the gods returned
to their normal state.
In societies, families would name themselves and their children after
certain animals and eventually came to hold that animal above other animals.
Eventually, these opinions turned into deep respect and evolved into fully
developed worship of the family animal.

Animals played a special role in Native American cultures. They did not
worship animals; they honored and respected them. Animals were seen as
teachers, guides and companions, as well as being their key to survival.

Native American’s existence was dependent upon animals for everything from
food, clothing, and transportation, to signaling seasonal changes and
assisting with agricultural pursuits. They prayed over the body, only took
what they needed, used every piece, and did their best give back, aiding in
repopulation, and provided balance to Nature.

Many Native American legends relate their reverence for the animal kingdom,
which lead to the creation of symbolic “power animals.” These power animals
possessed strengths and characteristics that were adopted by families,
clans, or entire tribes who possessed similar human attributes. Many Native
Americans believed that there was a direct ancestral kinship to specific
animals, making them their emblem, or totem. They would “claim” the power of
the chosen animal and identify with the aspects of its natural spirit.

Individuals would also lay claim to one of the power animals. The animal
would become a totem, or symbol, of that person’s identity. The animal’s
spirit could be invoked through prayer, meditation, and visions. The person
would connect and communicate with the animal, internalizing its traits, and
gain the knowledge, wisdom and strengths it possesses.

Today, the world seems to be stacked against the animals. Views perpetuate
the idea that animals can be eaten, experimented on, and generally used for
whatever purposes humans have. In a broader way, views perpetuate the same
idea about the environment; the environment is ours to use in whatever way
we see fit.

Is “mainstream Christianity” is a “problem” for animals: it denies that
animals have souls, says that humans are made in the image of God, and says
that humans have dominion over animals. It thus provides the ideological
support for a view of animals and the environment that allows humans to
abuse or exploit animals and the environment as much as we want.

If you believe that something is sacred, then you have an interest in
spirituality.

Whether with regard to the animals, to the environment, to the huge gap
between rich and poor, the pervasiveness of political violence, or anything
else, society cannot recover its equilibrium until the world recovers its
sense of the sacred.

Our downtown: Worcester’s doughnut hole!!!

Monday, December 23rd, 2013

By Phil Stone

To anyone who works or passes through Downtown Worcester, it’s obvious that things could be better. I often describe Downtown as the “hole in the doughnut.” Worcester has many strengths – strong neighborhoods and the many colleges being among them. But there are many people who live, work and study in Worcester who rarely venture Downtown.

“Why should I? There’s nothing to do,” is what I hear when I ask people if they’ve been downtown lately. Perhaps the most telling comment came from my daughter, who had a dentist appointment when a movie was being filmed downtown. The location scouts had decided that the buildings on Main Street looked like something out of the ‘70s. After modifying the facades of a few businesses, they had the perfect movie set. Some classic cars were trucked in, and the second unit filmed them driving up and down Main Street while the extras walked around.

“Main Street looks really good. Is that part of the Master Plan?” I had to explain that what she had seen was a movie set. The sad thing was that she was right; Main Street did look much better.

Now a year later the Central Hub is up and running, and new sidewalks are being constructed around City Hall. But where are the people, that essential ingredient to a vibrant urban area?

More to the point, how did we end up here? Who made the bad decisions that led to such a predictable outcome?

In my last column I referred to Worcester’s “civic and political” leaders. There are plenty of organizations and individuals involved in economic development efforts, including Downtown revitalization – perhaps too many.

They include the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce, the Worcester Redevelopment Authority, Destination Worcester, the Central Massachusetts Convention and Visitors Bureau, Inc., the Massachusetts Biomedical Initiative, Inc., the Worcester Business Development Corporation, and the Executive Office of Economic Development.

Some of these, such as the Worcester Redevelopment Authority and the Executive Office of Economic Development are public/governmental bodies. Others, such as the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce are strictly privately funded. Still others are a hybrid, receiving some public funds for operating expenses and seeking private and foundation support. Others are legislatively created, such as the Massachusetts Biomedical Initiative, Inc. and the Worcester Business Development Corporation, and have the ability to obtain financing on advantageous terms.

Looking at this, the overlap and resulting inefficiencies are obvious. Missing are clear lines of accountability, and most important, an opportunity for folks who do not identify themselves as “civic and political leaders” to have opportunities to share their thoughts and suggestions before decisions are made, and money is spent.

Help ban exotic animal acts from Worcester! Sign this petition to let Woo City Councilors know how you feel!

Saturday, December 21st, 2013

By Deb Young

The Worcester City Council is considering a ordinance that would ban
circuses and traveling shows from using animals in their performances.

The law would bar all shows featuring “exotic animals,” including elephants,
monkeys, big cats such as tigers, and others.
Ringling Bros. makes one or two trips to Worcester each year.

Although the issues regarding circus cruelty have gained much-needed
attention in recent years, circus animals still suffer from lives of
confinement, social deprivation and violent methods of training.

In many circuses, animals are trained through the use of intimidation and
physical abuse. Former circus employees have reported seeing animals beaten,
whipped and denied food and water, all to force them to learn their
routines. Animals are taught that not obeying the trainer will result in
physical abuse. In the United States, no government agency monitors animal
training sessions.

Traveling from town to town is also stressful for circus
animals—they are separated from their social groups and confined
or chained for extended periods of time with no access to food, water, and
veterinary care. It’s no surprise that many animals suffer psychological
effects. Swaying back and forth, head-bobbing and pacing are just some of
the stereotypical behaviors associated with mental distress displayed by
animals in the circus.

Large animals such as elephants, lions and tigers need a large amount of
space to be able to move around and to socialize with their own kind. In the
wild, elephants may travel 40 kilometers a day, mud bathe and live in social
groups. In a circus, elephants are chained or confined to a small space and
are only able to stand up, lie down or shuffle a few paces backwards and
forwards. Lions and tigers are shut in their beast wagons for over 90% of
the time. They, too, need to be able to socialize and roam freely.

I’m sure you are wondering what you can do to help circus animals. Talk to
our mayor or city councilors and ask them to ban the circus because of
the animal abuse.

*****************

Sign this petition!

The Sheppard King Neighborhood Association meets on the second Thursday of each month at Gilreins on Main Street at 5:30 p.m. …

Friday, December 20th, 2013

By Ron O’Clair

… It is generally well attended with concerned neighborhood activists, City of Worcester Police, City Councilors, former Councilor Barbara Haller, and other notable citizens who meet each month to discuss issues affecting the quality of life in the Main South area.

It is open to all, and I urge those residents of the area that are fed up with rampant lawlessness to attend future meetings and speak out about injustices that they see on a daily basis in their own neighborhoods. The SKNA meeting is one of many meetings held throughout the city that are open to all concerned residents.

Issues brought up at these meetings receive immediate attention from the Worcester Police Department. A case in point is the SUN meeting, which stands for: Sycamore United Neighbors, which meets on the first Wednesday of each month, and is relatively new, having met only 5 or 6 times so far. That one meets at Centro Las America’s at 11 Sycamore Street at 6:00 P.M.

At the last SUN meeting, the issue of drug dealers using Sycamore Street, and a section of Main Street from Compare Foods to Wellington Street as a base of operations and as a place to trespass on private property to use & sell illegal drugs was discussed at the meeting held on the 6th of November. That meeting had Sergeant Campbell and Officer Hurley of the Worcester Police in attendance. As a result of information provided to the police at the meeting, action was taken the very next day to combat activity that every decent citizen knows is illegal and has been allowed to go on far too long.

Activity such as people going onto posted private property, urinating, defecating and/or shooting up heroin or smoking crack cocaine in the privacy of the property that they have no right to use as if they owned the place. These people have come to believe that they are immune to prosecution because even when the property owners threaten to call the police to report them in the act, the criminals laugh, knowing that the response time to the complaint will still allow them time to do their thing and leave before the police are able to come and arrest them for it. Click to continue »