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January 5, 1997

Go clamming, even
confess to the cops!

By Timothy C. Barmann

You can build it, but they may not come.

People need a good reason to visit a World Wide Web site and it's got to be something more than say, a list of your New Year's resolutions. Web sites need a hook.

That's just what Troy Pappas found when he invited Don Bousquet, the man whose cartoons have made the quahog famous, to be part of a regional commerce site launched last month.

The site, designed by Pappas, an East Greenwich entrepreneur, plays host to a number of other Web sites by local businesses. Pappas hopes Bousquet's notoriety will bring people to his on-line marketplace (http://www.merchantsbay.com), where you can order products from companies selling pasta sauce, jewelry, cookies, chocolates and rare books.

Bousquet has his own section (http://www.merchantsbay.com/ bousquet/) that displays a sampling of his cartoons, and offers his books and some of his original artwork for sale.

The site opens with a cartoon that is classic Bousquet -- a picture of a man stepping across stones on the shore, carrying a fishing pole. His T-shirt says, "I fish, therefore I smell."

The Pawtucket native also includes a short autobiography called "True Stuff about Don Bousquet."

"When I was nine, my family moved to South County where I made an amazing transformation -- from city-slicker to country bumpkin!" he writes. "At about this time I decided that the word 'Quahog' was actually pretty funny. But I kept it to myself."

Bousquet obviously overcame his inhibitions with his first book, Beware of the Quahog, in 1980, and has continued with the 13 that followed.

While you can find some of Bousquet's work on the Web, you won't find Bousquet himself surfing around, at least not yet.

"I am a Neanderthal when it comes to computers," he said last week by telephone.

His two children, aged 12 and 16, do the Internet exploring at his house. He doesn't think he can do his cartoons nearly as quickly by computer as he can by hand, so he's sticking to the old-fashioned way -- for now.

"I'm just a Swamp Yankee from South County," he said. "But I'm here to learn."

'We have you surrounded'

The Rhode Island College Campus Police Department has a Web site with a hook of a different nature. It's the "Citizen's Self Arrest page" (http://www.ric.edu/home/services/security/index.htm).

"If you commit a crime," it says, "it would be extremely helpful (and provide a savings of tax dollars) for you to perform a citizen's self-arrest."

The arrest apparently takes place after you fill in your name, any aliases you may have, your address, your physical characteristics and the crime you have committed. After you read yourself your rights, which are conveniently listed, you can fill out a confession and add some other requested information. All this can then be sent to the RIC police department by clicking on the "arrest myself now" button.

Actually, that button doesn't really send your information anywhere. It's all in fun, said Lt. Charles P. Wilson.

Even the police have a sense of humor, Wilson said. "That's our effort at letting people have a little bit of enjoyment with the site when they come in."

Wilson is quick to point out the other parts of the site, which really do work. Among the pages that appear most useful are one that allows students to register their cars to park on campus, and another to report lost and found items.

Another part of the site can be used to pass tips along to the campus police by filling out a form. Next to an unsettling-looking picture of an animated eyeball scanning back and forth is a message prompting students to report crimes they see on campus.

Users can send information "anonymously" if they desire. However, your Internet address is typically recorded when you visit Web sites. That means it would be possible for police to figure out the owner of the Internet account used to visit a site. Wilson acknowledged that such tracing is possible, "though we have not chosen to do so to date."

The department plans to add a Web page where students can register their belongings in case they are stolen.

Wilson said that since going online this summer, the site has garnered 11 awards from organizations that judge both law-enforcement sites and those of general interest. He said the RIC site is the first in Rhode Island by a campus police department.

Of course, it would also be a first if the department really could figure out how to get criminals to arrest themselves using the Internet. But Wilson's not counting on it.

"If it was that easy, we wouldn't have jobs."

Timothy C. Barmann is a Journal-Bulletin staff writer. His column runs every other Sunday on the On Line page. Send him comments via e-mail at tim@cybertalk.com or U.S. mail, c/o the Journal-Bulletin, 75 Fountain St., Providence, R.I. 02902.