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OUR VIEW: FBI dedication leads to bank robbery arrests

THUMBS UP TO… good old-fashioned police work. When armed robbers targeted Old Second National Bank in Ottawa, May 11, the community was understandably shocked. But as days and weeks went by, the event sort of faded into the background — at least for the people who weren’t directly involved — to the point some might have wondered if the crime would be an unsolved mystery. But the FBI was hard at work on the case, and there was a definite sense of relief when the agency announced arrests Thursday.

According to FBI reports, two people have been charged with the Ottawa robbery as well as similar crimes in Gurnee and Aurora later that month. The FBI said it used security video recordings and rental car records in its pursuit of justice. Agents searched motel rooms and matched recorded images with personal accounts to mount enough evidence to make arrests. Of course trials await before everything is fully resolved, but it felt right to praise the agents who worked on getting things this much closer to the finish line. From this vantage point, it looks like good work by good people, and we appreciate the agents’ dedication.

THUMBS DOWN TO… narrow sighted blame. There’s no debating the reality of state, county and local budgets being strained by trying to meet obligations of taxpayer-funded public pension systems. But agreeing a problem exists is quite different from finding common ground on the cause for said problem, and it regularly seems there’s far more blame than potential solutions. But in a rush to point fingers, it can be easy to overlook how some of the situation was beyond the control of anyone in Illinois.

Late last week, the state reached a $20 million settlement with the Royal Bank of Scotland. According to The Associated Press, the agreement is the result of litigation resulting from the bank’s marketing and sale of mortgage-backed securities a decade ago, and specifically its failure to accurately disclose the risk of its investments. Attorney General Lisa Madigan said her office has recovered more than $475 million for Illinois pension systems as a result of pursuing “fraudulent conduct in the mortgage-backed securities market,” and it’s not unfair to think how much healthier pension systems would be had that principal and interest never been lost.

THUMBS UP TO… peaceful assembly. A June 30 rally in downtown Ottawa’s Jordan block was a fine example of Americans exercising several First Amendment rights. The topic of the day was heated — the separation of immigrant families who are detained along the Southern border — and the summer weather was just as intense. But despite the inflamed passions, those gathering in Ottawa seemed to be able to raise their voices without losing their cool.

It should be noted the rallies weren’t alone, as our reporter talked to at least one counter-protestor who was on hand to discuss her legitimate concerns about taxpayer resources being stretched thin in order to accommodate people who did not enter the country legally and the effect that has on different government bodies’ ability to adequately manage programs. Without taking sides in this particular paragraph, we salute all those who organized and demonstrated peacefully, showing the freedom of thought and expression that all citizens enjoy.

THUMBS DOWN TO… persistent scams. Anyone who owns a phone or gets mail is aware of the alarming frequency with which shady dealers are attempting to get money for nothing. Perhaps the IRS is calling to say back taxes are due. Maybe you’ve “won” a “free” cruise. A caller wants donations for a charity you’ve never heard of but seems to do good work. Write a check as a down payment on a work-from-home opportunity that can’t be beat.

There’s still the old-fashioned in-person scams, too. A roofer knocks on your door to say he’s in the neighborhood and offering deals for customers who can pay a deposit up front. Someone with “the government” is offering to look over your Medicare application. One of the most insidious forms involves spoofing, wherein the caller ID number makes it look like a family member or friend is placing the call just so you’ll pick up and take the bait. We frequently run advice from law enforcement agencies asking residents to guard their data and money, but it also seems that whatever laws we have in place to eradicate these practices aren’t yet strong enough.

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