Wednesday, July 12, 2006

not optimistic

As I'm sure you're aware, there's been a lot of chatter about DC crime over the last few days. The tragic murder of Alan Senitt in Georgetown has gotten the most attention locally and nationally, but as as of this posting there have been fourteen murders in the last twelve days. Let me repeat that: fourteen people murdered in twelve days. Ten men, two women and a child.

I don't know how much attention would have been paid to this statistic if one of them had not been the murder of a white man by black people in a ritzy neighborhood. Frankly, I don't care. It's a damned waste of time to fret over hypothetical racism when people are being stabbed in the streets. I'm sure there are some who would say that as a white, middle-class person I don't get to make that judgement call. To them I say "Can we talk about this later? Someone is breaking into my neighbor's house and there's a body in the street a block down."

Having recently been on the periphery of a violent crime, I haven't felt safe in my home and my city for several weeks now. This latest spate of violence may bring attention to DC's violent crime problem, but who knows if any tangible results will come from it. In the situation I've referenced before in this blog, I was deeply disturbed with reaction of the police involved. It's hard to explain without getting into specifics, which is not appropriate for this forum, but they behaved in a supremely unconcerned manner, sauntering around the crime scene and not bothering to interview witnesses or, that I saw, even write anything down. At one point I pointed out a car across the street that had been recently broken into-- there was still glass on the backseat and the weapon-- a rock wrapped in a scarf-- was hanging out the window. When I pointed this out to an officer, thinking they might find it of note that a robbery had taken place across the street and on the same night as the incident they were presently investigating, he responded "we can't do anything until the owner calls it in." He didn't even bother to write down the license plate number. I wrote it down, along with as many notes on the scene and the officer's reaction to it as I could recall, along with his squad car number and my contact information, and sent it to police headquarters. I'm sure they'll never do anything with it. It's probably sitting in a box somewhere in Anacostia, or more likely, is resting in pieces at the bottom of a shredder. From what I've been told, the continued investigation of this particular crime has been more of the same: apathy, dropped calls and general callousness towards the victim.

I don't have a lot of faith in the DCPD. After reading a lot of the comment threads and blog entires about this issue, I'm losing a lot of faith in the power of DC citizens. Events like these should push us to measurable action, not a round of race-baiting and finger-pointing. Everyone is too scared of the very large and ill-defined task of reducing violent crime, and so they play the blame game. It's the yuppies' fault for being stupid and living in bad neighborhoods. It's the parents' fault for letting their kids run wild. It's the schools' fault. It's the cops' fault. It's because of racist condo developers; Congress; gangs; crystal meth.

One thing I'm particularly losing patience with is the gentrification blame game. People like me are damned if we do, damned if we don't. Yuppies who live in Northwest and the suburbs get all kinds of crap for fleeing and taking their resources and influence with them, yet are told that because they don't live in the rougher parts of town they don't get to comment on what goes on there. If they, as I do, live in "transitioning" neighborhoods and something bad happens, they get a reaction of "what did you expect? This is a city. If you can't deal, get out." It's a vicious cycle that doesn't go anywhere or help anyone, and I'm sick of it.

I fully expect that this latest surge of violence will, in the end, change nothing about the way DC law enforcement is run or tangibly address any of the underlying causes of the rise in violent crime. What it will do is stir a simmering kettle of tangential crap. People will use the violence as a further reason to attack one another's lifestyles and choices. They will get up in arms about perceptions of racism, and quibble over how much attention to race and socioeconomic status is appropriate. Little will be different and people will still get hurt.

It'd be nice if I'm wrong, but I'm not optimistic.


KOB said...

Outstanding post and on target.

Anonymous said...

Excellent post. You address things the mainstream media/talking heads do not deal with at all. The end question is how do we stop the crime. Now if we only had the solution...

Lillian said...

Excellent job, EJ--you really nailed this one. Way to cut through all the crap and polemics and address the heart of the issue; hopefully a lot of people will read this and start getting the perspective they need. Until then, though, big props for being on point and telling it like it is.

Lonnie Bruner said...

Stick in there, kid. And don't let that tired-ass "gentrification" drivel get you down. We all know the truth of the matter is that when decent people like you and I move into the ghetto, after a while, the criminals and trash move the hell out and eventually we'll have safe cities that this country can be proud of. But it's gonna take some broken eggs in the process.

Velvet said...

Agreed. This post is excellent.

It's no secret that I cannot stand the DC Cops. Lazy, inept, useless. They have worked hard for their reputation and they deserve every piece of crap that gets slung their way.

I know I live in Dupont, but we see our fair share of crime too. Break ins, muggings, stabbings, all right outside my door. When someone pushed me into the bushes so he could unlawfully gain access to my building, I called 911 three times to tell them to hurry, that he was in the building and would soon be gone.

They told me to "calm down." Yeah, someone just assaulted me and I am basically going to hand him to you, so you don't even have to put down your Krispy Kreme, and you can't be bothered to show up? Unbelievable.

Mad Cabbie said...

Ej, I feel the same way, until they clean up the retards in the District goverment created by Mayor Barry decades ago, we have a hell of a hill to climb!

Anonymous said...

The type of thought-provoking post that could spawn a host of dissertations/case studies. But what separates this from quite a bit of related stuff in the blogosphere is a palpable earnestness laced with risky honesty. Blog on, EJ!

“I'm losing a lot of faith in the power of DC citizens.”


Being DC born and bred, I can only say that things have changed over the years. Dramatically. For the better. As in kick up my heels, do a jig, can’t believe so much has happened during my lifetime. Check out Chinatown over lunch today. A stream of humanity of all colors and hues eating, drinking, laughing. A true delight. Now close your eyes. Remember what it was like before the oft-maligned bowling alley/movie theater/restaurant complex? Remember it before the arrival of the condo-canyons? Go back a few more years before that to pre-MCI.. For those older timers out there, go back a few decades, to pre-Metro. Any other questions? To be sure, many reasons (more dissertations/case studies) for such an urban renewal. But courageous (not an overstatement) gentrifiers (not a dirty word) are the catalysts and the cementers. The most powerful thing any DC citizen can do is withstand the storm.

Power of DC citizens? Not necessarily asking any of you 20-30 somethings to do anything drastic (as someone I know who shall remain anonymous), and jump into the front lines of crime fighting by joining the police force/FBI or becoming a prosecutor or anything like that . . . but how many of you, when you receive that pesky notice from DC Superior Court every 2 years about jury service, groan, and then defer, and then cite work, or vacation, or anything else you can latch onto in an effort to not get picked for the jury. If you are one of those, shame on you. One of the most powerful things any citizen can do – one of our most important civic obligations - is to serve on a jury.

Stay safe, everyone. Thanks, again, EJ.

Stillwaters 20007

ejtakeslife said...

Thanks, guys. It's encouraging to know that other people share these concerns and want to change the way things work, even if we're still figuring out just how to do that.

Everyone get home safe tonight, you hear?

Dennis! said...

Just got here and wanted to also chime in this excellent post. Your observation about gentrification and "damned if you do..." is spot on and hit a nerve with me.

I recently posted about my personal reactions after a Hispanic guy (allegedly) stole my bag from my feet while I was having dinner. One of the comments basically blamed me for going into that area for dinner to begin with, kind of a "what did you expect?, so don't bitch about it now, racist rich boy" response. Augh, it still riles me (even though most of the other comments were sympathetic).

Sharkbait said...

Very well put my dear.

As usual :-)

I hope you are great!
Miss ya!

john of ne said...

You are right about a lot of things, and you gentrifiers have got people up in arms in my quaint area of the city, NE, giving me, a lifelong resident (and going back several generations to before the Civil War) the evil eye.

The cops aren't the real problem. They are only helpful if they choose to investigate a crime scene. Rather, it's the punishment for crime that is lacking here. Teenagers who steal cars, cause havoc and even death, are simply slapped on the wrist. Murderers are excaping prison by way of taking a free bus to their neighborhoods!

Whenever there is talk of a surplus in the budget, MY MONEY, the first thing they want to spend it on is the poor! Fix my GD sidewalk, will you please. Build prisons to hold the bad guys for a long time. Repeal the idiodic gun laws here.

Stopping crime begins with you. Don't expect the police to be on the scene of an occurring crime. Also, criminals are not stupid, they have lookouts and/or scope out an area before striking. You must be prepared to take care of yourselves. Use your imagination, but by all means obtain a weapon to equalize things.

It is better to be alive than dead, even if it means going to prison for firearms violations. You still have a chance with a jury. Believe me, I truly believe it is better to be alive!

lin said...