By Patrick Cronin
Hampton Union, Friday, March 23, 2007
[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]
[Photo by Scott Yates]
HAMPTON -- Capt. Tim Crotts may have never planned to have a career in law enforcement, but now that he's retiring after 30 years, he doesn't regret a minute of it.
"You always hear the kids say, 'I always wanted to be a police officer,' but that wasn't me," Crotts said. "When I graduated from high school, it was one of those things that you either went to college or work at the local factory."
But as fate would have it, Crotts didn't have enough money for college and his chance to work at the local factory was dashed after he failed the entrance exam.
"I guess you could say fate led me to this career and I'm happy it did," said Crotts, whose work as a dispatcher led him to a job as a police officer in Claremont.
But Crotts, who has worked for the Hampton Police Department for the last 12 years, said the time has come for him to turn in his gun, badge and walk away from the job.
"I've always heard from people that have retired is that you will know when it's time," Crotts said. "And I guess that is what has taken place."
Crotts spent three years working as a patrolman at Claremont when he was hired to become the youngest police chief in the state in his hometown of Plainfield in 1981.
"It was interesting because I wasn't that old," Crotts said. "I was only 23."
Plainfield was a small community with a population of roughly 2,000. Crotts was not only the chief, he was the only full-time officer on the roster.
Working in his hometown had its advantages and disadvantages.
"It was good and bad at the same time," Crotts said. "The good was that I knew the people. The bad part was when you had to be the disciplinarian and give someone a ticket it was 'come on Tim, I've known you forever.'"
"The hardest thing I had to do in my entire career happened at that job. I had to go to the house of a friend I went to high school with and tell his parents at 2:30 a.m. that their son had just been killed."
Most bothersome case
"Sylvia Gray," said Crotts. "It was my second year as chief as Plainfield and it was a homicide. I got a call that there was an elderly woman found offside the road."
The woman was found on the side of the road beaten with a tire iron and stabbed multiple times on May 30, 1982.
Crotts, along with state police, worked on the case but never found the culprit.
"To this day, I always wonder about that," Crotts said. "Everybody knew everybody in that town and you couldn't make a move without someone seeing something and we got nothing. I will always feel bad that I didn't solve that case or saw an outcome to it."
Back to Claremont
Crotts said while he loved serving his hometown, he missed the action that occurred in Claremont.
"For a young officer, it was constant activity," Crotts said. "You had the fight calls, theft calls and robbery calls," Crotts said.
"When you're a young officer, that's why you get into this job, because it's exciting.
"I remember sitting in my police cruiser and listening to the scanner. And I would hear everything that was going on back in Claremont. The town was always a hopping place."
And when he received a call from the Claremont police chief asking if he wanted to come back, Crotts didn't even have to think about it.
"I jumped at it," Crotts said.
At Claremont, he worked his way up from patrolman to detective. From there he became a sergeant and finally lieutenant.
Welcome to Hampton
Crotts took the opportunity to work in Hampton after he began to notice that Claremont was heading in a downward spiral both criminally and financially.
"I decided it was time to leave when I started dealing with third-generation people," Crotts said. "I would arrest someone and they would say I remember you, you arrested my grandfather.' That was the turning point for me and when I realized I had to get out of here."
In 1995, Crotts joined the ranks of a lieutenant with the Hampton Police Department. Former Hampton Police Chief Bill Wrenn was the one to promote Crotts to captain in 1997, where he was in charge of facilities, prosecution, training, personnel recruitment, hiring and grant writing.
No day at the beach
Crotts said Hampton Beach, especially on Friday and Saturday nights during the summer, is like going to the circus.
"To this day, I'm still amazed how a little piece of property can hold so many people," Crotts said.
He recalls the first day he had to work at the beach on July 4.
"It had to be the deer-in-the-headlight look," Crotts said. "I have dealt with everything you could possibly deal with in Claremont, but I have never seen the volume of people like I have at Hampton Beach."
Crotts said the last four years at the department has been challenging, especially with default budgets.
"I think there has been a lot of times when we wanted to do some projects that we haven't been able to due to budget constraints," Crotts said.
But Crotts said despite the budget restraints, he's proud of the job the men and women have done.
"I'm truly impressed with how the officers handle themselves, especially during the summer with the amount of activity," Crotts said. "These guys are professional and they go out and do the job they have to do."
Time to say goodbye
"I had a good career and I've been able to do things that I would never have imagined," Crotts said. "I have done everything I wanted to do in this career and it was time."
Originally, Crotts was going to trade in his badge if he became the next town clerk of Greenland. But he decided to drop out of the election and officially retire after he received a job offer to work at Ben's Uniforms in Amesbury, Mass.
"I have been honored to work with the men and women of this department," Crotts said. "It's going to be hard saying goodbye on March 30. It's hard because I know what I will be leaving behind."