A review of news headlines in 2013 brings up an incident that garnered attention, support, and criticism from around the world.
On October 7th, a city woman was charged after she was caught stealing coins from the fountain in front of the Logan County Courthouse at 5:50 in the afternoon.
The Bellefontaine Police Department reported that Deidre Romine, 38, was standing next to the fountain with a bag.
Initially, Romine denied taking money from the fountain.
She told police that the bag contained vegetables that she just received from Our Daily Bread.
Eventually, Romine emptied a pocket that contained a large amount of wet coins.
The officer recovered $2.87 worth of coins.
Romine was then issued a summons for theft.
A public outpouring of support for Romine after the incident brought over $10,000 to her aid.
The handling of the situation was regarded as controversial by many members of the local, national, and international community.
The Bellefontaine City Council took time to address the issue of the $2.87 theft out of the city fountain and the public outcry that followed at their final October meeting.
According to Service-Safety Director Jim Holycross, feedback had come from as far away as Dubai questioning the handling of the incident at the time. Holycross, out of necessity, clarified the city’s position.
The following was his statement at the time:
--the city is concerned with the well-being of the person involved. There are opportunities available for that person to have a better life and the city can provide assistance.
--in this situation, the police officer acted appropriately given how the circumstances were presented. Police are asked everyday to make decisions on the spot.
--police reach out to citizens. For example, it is not uncommon for officers to purchase someone’s meal or give them a coat in the winter.
Listen to Holycross discuss fountain theft ramifications.
Bellefontaine Police Chief Brandon Standley also took time to address the issue.
The following is Standley's response:
On October 7th, a concerned citizen reported to the Bellefontaine Police Department that a female was seen removing coins from the city-owned fountain in front of the Logan County Courthouse. The police department dispatcher then dispatched an officer to further investigate the citizen's report. This is typical protocol when a potential crime is being reported to the police.
Upon the officer's arrival, he did observe a female at the fountain. The female was later identified Deidre Romine of Bellefontaine. The officer began a conversation with Ms. Romine, but she was less than forthcoming that she had removed any change from the fountain. Instead, over the next few minutes, Ms. Romine repeatedly denied having any coins from the fountain. However, Ms. Romine did agree to show the officer the contents of her pockets. She volunteered three of four pockets. When asked about the contents of the fourth pocket, Ms. Romine stated that she had change from home in that pocket and agreed to show the coins at that time.
The officer issued Ms. Romine a written summons to appear in court at a later date, not physically taking her to jail. Ms. Romine has entered a not guilty plea in Bellefontaine Municipal Court.
The Bellefontaine Police Department operates 24 hours a day, with well trained individuals that care about our community. In this instance, it is clear that the actions of Ms. Romine were less than cooperative, causing the officer to conclude that a summons was necessary.
Staff of the Bellefontaine Police Department routinely helps those in need. For example, it is not uncommon for officers to purchase someone's meal or give them a coat in the winter. The police department is active in community events and has increased neighborhood outreach efforts in the last year. The community has shown tremendous support of the police department by giving. Just last week, the local Moose Lodge donated over $1,000 to assist in the purchasing of two ballistic vests for officers.
We remain confident that this case will be resolved soon. We also remain hopeful that through this process, that this encounter with Ms. Romine and one of our officers proves to be the catalyst to get Ms. Romine intervention to assist her in her daily life. Our community is active in supporting those that are in need of extra assistance. We hope that the outpouring of support for Ms. Romine helps place her in a position for success.