Saturday, April 24, 2010

A Small Tale of Crime

Last June, I was barbecuing some burgers for lunch, after being out all morning. While I was barbecuing, I heard the garage door opening, and looked up to see a kid, maybe twelve, sneaking down the driveway. I chased him, but he had the advantage of a head start, and being some forty years younger, although I did get close enough for him to turn and threaten to hit me. I wish that he had - I would have grabbed him. When I got back to the house, Andrea said that when she had arrived home for lunch there was a young girl sitting on a bike in the driveway. When Andrea asked what she was up to, she said that she was looking for her brother, then she rode away.

When I looked in the garage, I saw that Guthrie's bike had been taken down from the rafters. So, in retrospect, I guess these two criminals-in-training had been interrupted - the girl acting as lookout, closing the garage door so the boy could get the bicycle down without being observed. The girl rode about the neighbourhood for awhile, probably wondering if the boy was still inside the garage. I actually saw him that afternoon in city hall square - when he saw me he took off. And I saw him a couple of weeks ago, riding a bike around the Co-op parking lot - I almost stopped to ask him where he'd stolen it from.

Fast forward to this past Friday morning - I was heading upstairs to the attic to check out my emails, when I saw this same kid looking in the bed of a pick-up truck parked behind one of the apartment buildings behind our house. While I watched, he hopped into the bed of the truck, then slid the back window of the cab open and squeezed in. I called the police.

By the time I got out to the back alley, he had taken off, running between the houses toward Ninth Street. The truck alarm was going off, and the owner of the truck soon came out. As I was talking to her, the police arrived. I told the officer where the kid had gone, and he went off to look for him. Then we saw the kid coming down the back alley, having removed his jacket. The truck owner and I confronted him, and he took off. I called dispatch to ask them to let the officer know that the kid was no longer wearing the jacket, and the dispatch person told me that they were not going to pursue this, because the truck owner had said that she knew the kid. Then we saw the police vehicle pass the kid, now strolling casually down Ninth Street, the proud owner of at least one new CD.

Now, what the truck owner had told the officer was that she thought that she knew the kid, that possibly his grandmother lived in her building. What she hadn't said was that it was okay for him to have broken into her truck, but that seems to be the conclusion that both the officer and dispatch came to. I told dispatch this, and the next thing I know, the officer is at my door, after having paid a visit to the truck owner, to ask me what my problem is.

According to the truck owner, when the officer stopped in to talk to her, he advised her against pressing charges, because to do so would likely result in some form of retaliation, such as her tires being slashed. So apparently, when these petty crimes happen, we're not supposed to call the police, because they are unwilling to do anything, even when the criminal is identifiable, and walking past you.

So, yes, I have a problem. Two, actually. The first is that, given the opportunity to let a kid know that there are consequences to breaking into a vehicle and stealing someone else's property, the officer chose to do nothing. The second is that the officer actively discouraged the victim from pressing charges, because to do so might encourage the criminal to take further action.

I will say that I have since been contacted by the police, who have told me that they know this kid, that there are parenting issues, because apparently he doesn't go to school, but that they are going to follow up with the family. And I appreciate their attention to this, somewhat after the fact. Although I wonder what the odds are of there being some sort of improvement to behaviour, if the family doesn't care enough to get the kid to school.

Now, I know that the police are busy. I know that crimes like shootings and murder are of much greater importance than truck break-ins. But I can't help but think that the time taken for follow-up visits with both the crime victim and me would have been more productive if instead the officer had grabbed the kid, put him in the back seat of the car, and suggested to him that he was going to be on their radar, and any time they saw him in a back alley or hanging about with other kids, they would be pulling over to find out what he was up to. Or why not just toss him in a cell for a few hours, then follow up with the family? In other words, put some fear into him of the consequences of breaking the law, no matter how relatively minor it may seem.

It seemed somewhat ironic to read in the paper that same day that, according to a speech given by the police chief at a Chamber of Commerce lunch, their approach to crime is to "fix it (criminal behaviour) at the lowest level". He even suggests paying "a lot of attention to" people in the fifteen to twenty-four age group, since it's people in that age range who commit the most crimes. This kid is younger than that - now would be the time to let him and other junior criminals know that this behaviour is not acceptable - to me, that would be a logical action to take if the police are serious about this approach.

So that's my crime story for this week - nothing major, but sadly, a newcomer to our city (the truck owner) has had a not very positive experience, and a kid who hangs around my neighbourhood has not been discouraged from what will likely turn out to be a life of ever-escalating crime. But I won't forget what he looks like, and I'll be watching.

"Pardon one offence, and you encourage the commission of many." - Publius Syrus

1 comment:

paeveryday said...

I'm afraid that the situation in general will get alot worse around here before it gets better. The road to hell is paved with good intentions, and a a few generations of social programs has created a growing dependant subculture with numberous social problems. And the more government grows to attempt to adress the issue, the worse it will get.