Giancarlo Siligedi: Walking the hometown beat

Story by William T. Jiles

Could a town bustling with activity actually fade away? Giancarlo Siligedi, a specialized agent with the Cagli, Italy, Police Department, thinks it is possible.

Agent Giancarlo should know what he's talking about.  A veteran police officer of 30 years -- 27 on the force in Cagli -- he began his career in law enforcement as a police officer in the Italian army.  Giancarlo says he joined the Cagli police force after his military service because it's the town where he was born and where his family still lives. 

Cagli is a mountain hamlet, nestled in an east-central region of the country.  On any given day, from sunrise to sunset, the piazza often teems with local residents and shopkeepers.  Elderly gentlemen meet daily at the front wall of City Hall. A steady stream of patrons sips wine or savor gelato at the caffé, and a buzz of cars and motorcycles navigate around pedestrians.  All of this activity might be impressive to visitors, but Giancarlo says his hometown is a shell of what it used to be.  

Giancarlo recalls a time when Cagli was home to as many as 40,000 residents.  He says that over the last 20 years, the population has shrunk to just under 10,000.  According to Giancarlo, most of the younger people have moved away to take better-paying jobs in larger cities such as Florence, Rome and Milan.  According to Giancarlo, the town’s population is nourished only slightly by immigrants and aging former farmers who could no longer make their livings off the land.  He says that, throughout the town, fewer people talk to each other than before because neighbors scarcely know one another. 

“They are kind of strange to each other,” Giancarlo says. “But the quality of life is still good.”

The shrinking working population, coupled with the aging, older generations, has changed the dynamics of Cagli's economy – there is far less money and fewer jobs than 20 years ago.  According to Giancarlo, as many as 165 employees once worked at City Hall.  Now only 47 provide the town's services, including public safety, which is understaffed by four police officers.   

Cagli is not without its share of crime.  Giancarlo says during patrols on one of two shifts – either from 7:30 a.m. to 1: 30 p.m. or from 2:00 p.m. until 8:00 p.m. – he must keep a watchful eye for drug activity, petty thefts, and scams by street peddlers.  He also monitors various property sales. But Giancarlo says assaults and murders are unlikely in Cagli.

While walking his beat, Giancarlo often engages in conversations with locals who either have questions about municipal matters or seek his advice.  Helping people, he says, is what he enjoys most about his job. “It's an ungrateful job, but I have to be there for the sons, the daughters, the old people to encourage them, protect them, help them around,” he says.

In the piazza, Giancarlo doesn't hesitate to write tickets for parking violations, even though he might know the driver.  He says while he is friendly with local residents, he is mindful of his duties as a specialized agent with the police department.  Later, when he is off duty, he might have a glass of wine with locals while relaxing at a caffé patio. 

Cagli is hardly on life support, Giancarlo says, but his hometown has far less of the vibrant buzz of activity he remembers as a child. He says there is a chance he could join the wave of others who have left for larger cities, but his plans are to finish his career in Cagli.   Giancarlo wants to retire in 14 years when he turns 65. That's when he says he will fully enjoy his two favorite past times—motorcycling and scuba diving.

Giancarlo on the job at City Hall

Giancarlo prepares to check piazza for parking violators.

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