Community policing can take on a wide variety of forms — including some that don’t begin with police, but with residents and observers who know enough to make a key call or two.
And that was the case on Labor Day morning, when a group of local divers — members of the longstanding North Shore Frogmen club – noticed two men hauling off some 30 lobsters from Rockport’s Old Garden Beach.
They didn’t think it looked right, they alerted a beach lifeguard and the lifeguard rightfully brought in Rockport Police and the town’s harbormasters. And because of all their swift action and recognition, two alleged poachers – you can’t call them anything but — are facing criminal charges of illegally harvesting 30 undersized lobsters.
It was Vinny Egizi, one of four divers out that day and the Frogmen’s organizational treasurer, who noticed that the two men — later identified as Igor Moochnick, 39, Pietor Epshtein, 42 — seemed to be handling a lot of lobsters. “If I get two or three lobsters a day, I’m pretty pleased,” Egizi said. Plus, the lobster haulers raised other red flags, too, telling Egizi that they couldn’t loan him a piece of equipment because theirs was rented. That didn’t jive with what Egizi knew about legitimate lobstermen, their licenses and commitments.
Look, the poaching of undersized lobsters might not be seen by many as the most heinous public safety threat. But it is, in fact, not only a crime against wildlife and the environment, but against all of those lobstermen who play by the rules as well.
These arrests came about because these divers knew enough to abide by the classic axiom: if you see something, say something. It’s the kind of help police and other authorities count on — and it’s the kind of help community policing is all about.