Editorial: A good collar, but too many misses

Editorial: A good collar, but too many misses

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It is with great relief that we learn that Oak Bluffs police have captured and charged the man who is alleged to have repeatedly peered into houses in Oak Bluffs and in some cases entered the houses and assaulted the sleeping women who lived there.

Irton DeSouza was arraigned in Edgartown District Court Friday morning on charges of indecent assault and battery, assault and battery, two charges of breaking and entering, larceny, open and gross lewdness, lewd, wanton, and lascivious behavior, intimidation of a witness, and disorderly conduct. The court entered not guilty pleas for Mr. DeSouza on all nine charges. The judge set bail at $60,000, and Mr. DeSouza remains in jail.

The commitment of Oak Bluffs residents to help police end this frightening episode is impressive. And the shrewd, generous efforts of one resident, who created a surveillance system that ultimately captured images of the miscreant at work and led police to find and arrest him in action, is remarkable and admirable.

It is certainly the case that Oak Bluffs police were persistent and diligent, though repeatedly frustrated, in their efforts to find this guy. This is not a case in which law enforcement professionals misunderstood or disregarded the impact of this man’s behavior on his victims or on town residents generally, who were justifiably made fearful by the news of his activities.

Still, in the aftermath of the arrest, and reading this morning’s expanded report of the accused man’s repeated involvement with Island law enforcement and the courts over several years, it is impossible not to be left uneasy and disappointed.

The fact that the combined efforts of the court system, the judges, the prosecutors, the jailers, and the police —repeatedly encountering this fellow, apparently in the country illegally and known to federal immigration authorities for his visa-less status — cannot have preempted this appalling conduct is alarming and infuriating.

Indeed, as Times writer Steve Myrick reports this morning, Mr. DeSouza may not even be Mr. DeSouza. Judge Lance Garth set the unusually high bail for Mr. DeSouza because, the judge said, the court was not certain of the defendant’s real name.

“It appears to the court, the person before the court may or may not have the name he has proffered,” Judge Garth said. “The true identity of the person is in question.”

Given Mr. DeSouza’s frequent flyer relationship with Vineyard law enforcement, the judge’s observation is astonishing and discomfiting in the extreme.

And, it is not only the residency issue that is perplexing. Rather, the question is why someone who offends and offends and offends remains among us for years to offend in grander and more dangerous ways. And then why, when the Vineyard has shown itself capable of growing its own drunk drivers and criminals, should the federal-state inability to keep track of non-citizens add visiting malefactors to the Vineyard mix.

There is no simple solution, of course. Judges blame sentencing rules that are created by legislators, influenced by political concerns. Police complain that judges are too lenient. Jailers lament their overstuffed facilities. Prosecutors criticize the cases brought to them by police.

There’s widespread frustration, to be sure, among all these members of the consolidated law enforcement apparatus; but among their civilian constituents there is the certain knowledge that things are not working the way they should.

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