Just read an interesting article in the Mount Vernon News about the relationship between law enforcement and Amish in a few Ohio communities.
One of the two sheriffs interviewed–hailing from Knox County, an area with a relatively small Amish population–says that law enforcement tries to be sensitive to Amish customs and in particular the Amish system of church discipline. “I believe a lot of times things get handled within the community,” he says, a point his Holmes County counterpart seems to agree with. Exactly what those ‘things’ he is referring to are, is unclear from this piece.
When criminal offenses occur, the law must become involved. As a rule, Amish readily cooperate with law enforcement. At the same time, that cooperation is not necessarily universal, and as one of the sheriffs points out, “without a victim, there’s little we can do.”
The question remains as to how often criminal acts in Amish communities go unreported? There has been a tendency in some media to play up a supposed ‘dark side’ of Amish society in a theatrical way. A long-ago blog post examined one 20/20 piece on an abuse case which painted the Amish with a big brush, in a report complete with ominous music and tired generalizations.
Assuming Amish communities conceal rampant domestic crime is pushing the idea a bit far. At the same time, in smaller, more isolated, and often more conservative and ‘closed’ settlements, the likelihood of a criminal act being absorbed by the community is probably greater.