Crime in small towns inevitably makes waves.
Residents typically personally know the perpetrator and they generally know the victim/s. And there’s not a single person who is immune from the impact when crimes are committed against the community as a whole.
That was the case in Springfield and Tripp — communities located 30 miles apart where former finance officers embezzled thousands of dollars and betrayed the trust of residents.
In each of those cases, the convicted individual manipulated city accounts and credit cards, and falsified records to mislead auditors and investigators. In Tripp, more than $550,000 was embezzled.
The leaders of those communities told The Daily Republic recently they’ve tried to increase safeguards and reduce vulnerabilities. For towns like Springfield and Tripp, it’s bad enough that the crime happened over numerous years, but citizens need assurance that it won’t happen again. It’s good to hear preventative measures are now in place, because the margin for error is small. And unfortunately, fraud does occur in all fields of work and types of businesses.
In each case with Tripp and Springfield, there was criticism that the punishment and/or the jail time was not strict enough. Ultimately, the judges who oversee these cases face a tough challenge. That’s because it’s a non-violent crime committed over multiple years that damaged communities that hundreds call home. How much jail time does a person deserve in that case? What’s the appropriate sentence for stealing from so many community members? There is a different answer for each person asked those questions.
Comparatively, when a violent crime is committed, sentences are a little easier to determine. And, there seems to be a higher chance that community members forgive a one-off instance, a single bad decision.
That doesn’t seem to be the case with embezzlement, where mistrust was a central theme and the crime was committed repeatedly over time. It’s the taxpayers’ money, and people hold on to hard feelings when someone misuses that money.
In the Springfield case, the judge told the woman involved that she would have to live with the consequences of her crime in the community. She might not be able to re-earn the trust of her neighbors and former friends. That lingering, isolating effect shows why these criminal actions aren’t worth it.
Forevermore, these former finance officers will be remembered as people who stole from their neighbors, coworkers and friends. People won’t forget, and rightfully so. Because the pain of these crimes will be around for quite some time.