Friday, November 13, 2009

Don't Cry Wolf-Part 3-Complex Interactions, Dead Dogs

More for those in the transition from a good neighborhood to a tough one. There's a Part 1 and  Part 2. But this can also stand alone.

The first summer we lived in IrishTown: one night all the watch dogs were executed. I think we should have had blanket police coverage then. Not because of the poor dogs, (although that’s bad) but because this person wandered the streets, shooting, far longer than an hour.

The police could have blanketed the neighborhood and possibly caught this person. If they had, they would have deterred numerous future crimes. Seeking intervention here, in other words, wasn't crying wolf. Considering how that series of shots freed up the streets at night for drug traffic, it was not small beans.

Not so fast, sweetheart:
Actually, my one-sentence idea (blanket the area) contains one huge step after the next. Each step relies on optimal interaction levels that weren't realistic.
  1. 1. First, a household affected has to call it in to say it’s a dog. Shooting in itself was not unusual. Sometimes it was recreational. Or, if it wasn't, my neighbors didn’t want to know. 
  2. 2. Dog-owners were asleep by then. Or, it was dogs. As long as everybody sat tight inside, they’d live.
  3. 3. More affected people have to call it in. Each person is calling in a single incident, but it sounds maybe like one incident reported over and over. Or a prank. 
  4. 4. Dispatch, or the watch commander, or somebody, has to figure out it’s a pattern, jumping now, and connect it to some conspiracy for after-dark street ownership that minute. Other scenarios were possible.
  5. 5. The PD must have personnel free to work the incidents or make my “blanket” idea work. The neighborhood was full of abandoned houses, where a shooter could hide, or friends/fellow businessmen could hide him. So a lot of personnel.

I didn’t have that thought out at the time. But the next day, I could see that my expectations were outsized to everyone else’s. That shut me up, but I didn't know why everyone was so resigned.

Eventually I learned there was some kind of neighborhood stability, or it would have been anarchy all the time. My husband and I were new, interlopers, not part of that order. We still relied  on it, every waking and sleeping minute. Further out in neighborhood affairs were the police. These we could access more easily than the neighbors--not because the police wouldn't come for a neighbor's complaint, but because, as outsiders, we would make a complaint.

What I Learned/Did
So this was my policy: see disclaimer. I called (or would have called) the police when I saw a crime in progress, or a condition they could verify (house burglary, drug buy central), big dollars lost (car theft) or assaults, blood, sounds of meaningful distress. Annoyances I tried to fix alone or look the other way.

I like to think the neighbors were grateful for our modest stand. But that is vanity. More likely our block just became a place to avoid, and trouble moved down the street.

Frequently new people demand everyone else adjust to a new social order. The previous residents already have 1. their own problems, plus 2. the ones they could live with but the new person wants changed. Then add 3. the crap that used to go down on the gentry block and is now on theirs.

So I guess this is a kind of warning to be nice. I guess this is also a hope held out: you'll have a constructive place in neighborhood affairs if you want it. You can be good for the neighborhood.

(BTW, if you’re wondering, we did call about “shots fired close” that night. Dutch, a Doberman, died two doors down, in a front pocket yard of a house used for work/storage. Two officers checked the complaint, saw no human with either a gun or a gunshot wound, and went onward, looking. Dutch lay undiscovered until the next morning, when the owner came back to work. The executions occurred in a fan-shaped group of blocks, three blocks wide on the North and eight blocks wide in the south. Many of those blocks (say 40, total) were small or deserted. Most occupied lots did not have yards.)


Anonymous said...

Moving the problem elsewhere is often the simplest resolution. We rely on it heavily, simply because fixing the root cause is beyond our resources, expertise, sphere of influence.

When there is a united front from law enforcement, the judicial process, social services, public services... then and only then will fixing the underlying conditions that create the symptoms be solved. Until then, the best we can often do is move the problem along.

Ann T. said...

Dear Christopher,
I saw that "move-on" effect, but not right away. My first impulse was to expect everyone to see it my way, and "take a stand against crime." This would have been faster, and more transparent (at least more transparent to me).

But I think taking on the underlying conditions was an enormous effort.

The consistency is a big one. The same response, every time, right away--we have a hard enough time doing this at our own dining tables, let alone the street.

But all in all, I go back to the first post, and I think: city government was so corrupt. Every step taken just disappeared with the money. The police had very little. The status quo worked for the crooks, city hall-side and curbside.

Still, there was some progress. And some detente that allowed people to get on with life. I'm living proof that people adjusted for my presence.

Thanks for commenting,
Ann T.

Anonymous said...

My jurisdiction is facing the "neighborhood in transition" issue as well. The side of town that borders the most crime ridden side of the City of Buffalo is the most "active" part of town when it comes to crim and calls for service. We are a very proactive and "firm" PD which causes some racial tensions due to the fact that we have the time, manpower and will to enforce the law's that the City has a tendency to overlook. Our "clientele" becomes used to having "small crimes" (like a little dope or a suspended drivers license)ignored by the BPD. Go a few streets east and you are getting arrested, having your vehicle towed and facing jail time in our courts.

I agree whole heartedly with your "team effort" idea you have going here. People fail to realize that the ONLY WAY polcing is going to effectively work is when the populace is helping by becoming the ears, eyes and reporting mouth of their LE agency. There are just not enough of us out there to be able to spot crimes in wouldn't want to live in a society where there were.

Ann T. said...

Dear Tgace,
From high to low, it seemed RiverTown only prosecuted things that displaced order greatly. I trusted police more but also knew less about the extent and connections of crime in the community. It would be great if those that knew would speak up. There's a spiral that needs to work its way up, not down.

I think about this a lot. It takes education and money, mostly personnel on the street. Easier said than done. And we all suffer for this.

Thanks for writing in.

Ann T.