Tag Archive | crime

Why we can’t have nice things

weboffunny.com

weboffunny.com

I decided to take the entire day off for the recent medical procedure. I didn’t need the whole day, but I’ve been experiencing nap attacks after dinner frequently. We’ve also cancelled a couple of short vacations recently for various reasons, so I’ve accrued rather a lot of unused vacation. I figured one day of sleeping in really late before going to the doctor’s would be a good thing.

Then, of course, I found myself wide awake before the usual time that my own alarm goes off for no apparent reason. So I got up, chatted with my husband before he headed to work, and did a small amount of writing. Fortunately, I started feeling a bit sleepy not long after that, so I went back to bed and slept until noon.

When it was time to head to the doctor’s office, I grabbed my stuff and headed out to the car. The first moment I knew something was wrong was when I saw that the back door on the driver’s side wasn’t completely closed. Then I saw all of the contents of our glove box and the center console piled up in the passenger seat. No windows were broken, and there was no sign of force entry. But the doors also weren’t locked. I am assuming that I simply forgot to press the lock button on the fob after I carried in the groceries earlier in the week.

They stole the iPod that is normally plugged into the USB port inside the console. It’s one of my favorite features of the car. We have a large library of our music playing randomly whenever we drive anywhere. They also took the iPod adaptor cable, as well as the spare cables we keep in there so we can charge our phones while driving if need be. Including the really pretty blue one my hubby found. And, when they pulled my spare eyeglasses out of the little compartment in the roof (I keep an old, but still the right prescription pair in there in case I break or lose my glasses sometime and I need to drive home). And while they didn’t steal the glasses, they did steal the matching sunglass lenses that attach magnetically to the glasses.

B*stards!

I didn’t have time to thoroughly assess what was taken. At the time, I just confirmed that the iPod was gone, but that the registration and similar paperwork was still in the car, and I drove to my appointment.

I was able to activate Lost Mode through the Find my iPhone app on my phone, so if anyone ever connects that iPod to the internet, it will brick itself and display a message that it is a stolen iPod. My bet is that unfortunately it will be some one who buys the iPod from someone who bought it from the thief, but I can hope.

Over the last year or so we have made a concerted effort to give away or sell most of the pile of old iPods we’ve accumulated (since Michael works at a computer refurbisher, he winds up with a bunch; he’s gotten scary good at replacing the batteries on a number of models). So we had a much more limited number of backups to replace the iPod with.

This is the third time in about 9 years or so that an iPod has been stolen from one of our cars. Every time it’s happened it’s been because one of us (me at least twice) left a door unlocked. So these are just crimes of opportunity, rather than anyone going to the trouble of actually breaking into cars.

I know there has been an uptick in the frequency of that sort of theft in our part of town. And apparently at least one a-hole is aware of it too.

Sunday night, right after I’d taken some stuff out to the recycle bins and loaded the dishwasher, Michael decided to empty the trash and recycle from the computer room upstairs. He was just heading out the door when we heard a woman’s scream.

I grabbed my phone and followed him. A van with its lights on was stopped in the middle of the street, in front of the house two doors down. A man and woman were yelling, and it quickly became clear that the man had been driving by when he saw the woman “behaving suspiciously.” He believed she was looking into cars with a flashlight as if looking for things to steal. She claimed she was looking gathering mushrooms.

As the yelling escalated, I started to dial 9-1-1. Then she tried to get away from the angry man, he grabbed her bike, grabbed her, and threw her to the ground. As my husband moved in and yelled, “Hey!” I was finally hearing ringback on my phone. So when the a-hole yelled at her that he had half a mind to call the police, I called out that I was calling the police because I’d just seen him assault her.

As I hoped, this got him to turn toward me, ignoring both the woman and my husband, and start yelling at me. I can keep an idiot/bully arguing for a long time. It’s not unlike yanking the chain on an internet troll.

Once I was actually talking to the 9-1-1 operator, the woman took off on her bike, and the man ran back to his van. He sat in there for a minute while I described the van to the 9-1-1 operator. I don’t know what he was doing. But his level of belligerence was not incompatible with someone who had been drinking.

Anyway as he drove away, Michael read most of the license plate to me. If this comes to court, I’m not going to be any good as a witness, because I didn’t grab my glasses. Everyone was a blur. Our immediate next door neighbors came out. As soon as she had heard a man and woman shouting outside, she’d called 9-1-1, too. And her husband pulled on enough clothes to come outside. The 9-1-1 operator told me cops were responding and an officer would be there, soon.

So we discussed with the neighbors what each of us had heard and deduced. As I said, “The guy might be right; she might have been prowling cars. But that doesn’t give him the right to assault her.”

And if I had been grabbed and thrown to the ground by a big angry man like that, I very well might have run off as soon as I had the choice.

As my husband pointed out, in a lot of places harvesting mushrooms out of other people’s yards is technically stealing (I assume that the yard owner would have to press charges), which would be one reason a person might be looking for mushrooms late at night. And since I recently wrote about our local fungi, and have been told by more than one person that the most spectacular ones I posted pictures of are very likely of the hallucinatory variety, a person intent on harvesting those kinds of mushrooms might prefer to do it at night when no one will see them.

When the cop pulled up a few minutes later, he asked us to clarify which way the woman fled. We’d given a good enough description of the van and the partial plate that they had pulled someone over, “And we’re pretty sure it’s him.”

The guy had seemed the sort of idiot who would immediately start yelling at the cop about how he was the victim of the woman who “started it.”

I didn’t mention that, but when he was yelling/arguing with me, that’s a phrase he repeated several times. “She started it.” Yeah, buddy. He was about 6′ tall, built like a bear, and she was about 5-foot-nothing and maybe weighed 110 pounds, and I saw him throw her to the ground. “She started it” ain’t going to cut it.

I know if they don’t find her to press charges, that nothing is likely to come of this (unless my guess that he might not have been sober is right).

If she was prowling cars, that doesn’t give a passing citizen the right to grab her and throw her to the ground. Sure, yell. Call the cops if you think you see a crime going down. Take a picture with your cellphone. But you don’t assault the person over suspected theft.

I hope that she’s physically all right, regardless of what she was doing. I started to type that I hope the guy learns a lesson, but the way he was yelling at her, then yelling at me, it’s pretty clear that he’s a bully and an idiot through and through. So maybe I can just hope that he doesn’t have any opportunities to assault or abuse anyone for a while.

And despite the title of this blog post, I still like living in this neighborhood.

But I’ll be triple-checking that I’ve locked the car for the foreseeable future.

Oh, lord, the leaping!

Within minutes of the news of the horrific shooting at an elementary school, the voices of inaction started spreading across the social networks:

  • “Even if you ban all the guns, people can still be killed with other things!”
  • “Why do people start talking about mental health care whenever there’s a violent event?”
  • “Now is not the time to talk about political action. People are just starting to mourn this senseless tragedy.”
  • “Why does the media put so much attention to these things? It only encourages other people to do this so they’ll become famous!”
  • “If only there were more armed citizens, this could be prevented.”

…and so on.

An internet meme is one of the least nuanced ways to discuss anything, but I have to admit that sometimes they raise a good point. Thanks to one failed clownish attempt to take out a jet with a shoe bomb, millions of us are forced to take off our shoes when we go through security at airports. Meanwhile, over 30,000 people are killed by gun violence every year in the U.S., but we can’t even talk about changing any gun regulations?

The air travel security processes that have been imposed on us are a horrific overreaction, don’t reduce the odds of a disaster by a significant amount, and are therefore a colossal waste of time and money. So we shouldn’t duplicate the thinking over there.

But doing nothing after decades of these mass shootings is an even more colossal waste.

The good news is, there are options between the extremes of overreacting and doing nothing.

Will banning assault weapons end violence? Of course not. But think about this: last week, a man went on a rampage and stabbed 22 school children in China, but no one died. Yes, it was a horribly traumatic event. Yes, it is certainly possible to kill someone with a knife, but it is much harder for a single person to inflict deadly wounds on a whole bunch of people in a short time with knives than with an assault rifle. So regulating the sale of certain types of weapons, offering gun buy-back programs, and so forth might save a few thousand lives a year.

Will better mental health options end all violence? No. And the usual argument people make on this point is that most mass shooters have fallen through the cracks of the mental health system. The problem with that argument is that currently, the mental health care system has cracks the size of the Grand Canyon. Nearly everyone falls through the cracks. Let’s get a functioning system together, first, shall we?

The variant on the mental health argument I was quite amused with recently is that, since so few of these shooters survive to be diagnosed, we can’t assume they are mentally ill. One person making this argument insisted that mentally ill people are no more likely than the non-ill to be violent. And as proof said, “Of the 61 mass shooters of the last five years, only 38 exhibited signs of mental illness before the crime, but none had been diagnosed.” Thirty-eight out of sixty-one is 62%. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, only 26% of the population suffer from a diagnosable mental or mood disorder at any time. So 62% seems at least a bit disproportionate.

The “now is not the time” argument is beyond infuriating. If anything, talking about it after a tragedy is too late, certainly not too soon. And silencing the discussion by saying we’re trying to politicize a tragedy? That is politicizing a tragedy. So, stop being a hippocrit, man up, and debate the issue.

The “media creates these events” argument is very tempting. And in more than a few of the cases there is evidence that the person was trying to make a statement, having left behind videos or notes. But you know who else does that sort of thing? Terrorists. And no sane person believes that the guys who flew those planes into the World Trade Center thinks that if only the news hadn’t revealed their names, that they would have never done it.

The “more guns argument” overlooks a few facts. First, there are already more privately owned guns in this country than there are people. We have no shortage of guns available for citizens to defend themselves. Second, one need look only at incidents such as the Lakewood shoot a couple years ago in my state: four armed cops, all experienced, all having been in shooting situations before hand, were at a cafe when an armed guy walked in and started shooting. He wasn’t even armed with an assault rifle, but none of the officers was able to draw and fire back in time to stop him from killing all four. There are dozens of similar cases, and statistics galore that indicate that just having responsible, trained, armed people there doesn’t put a stop to these crimes. In the majority of the cases, even after a large force of armed police arrive, it’s the shooter killing himself that ends the massacre, not the police killing him.

And all of these leaps to unsupportable conclusions are keeping us from tackling any of the sources of the problems that lead these guys (and they are almost all men, usually young men) to do these things. We aren’t willing to talk about our society’s toxic expectations of what masculinity means. We aren’t willing to discuss the correlations between the economic and romantic frustration that many of these mass murderers express before these things happen, and how many of them form alliances with gun-stockpiling, paranoid communities.

We have to stop leaping to conclusions, stop following our gut reactions, and look at the facts. We have to be willing to start seriously implementing multiple changes. We have to be willing to get past the bumper sticker/internet meme rhetoric and talk about the difficult problems.

Otherwise, the senseless deaths are going to just keep happening.

When words move you

There’s this silly “alternate weekly” here in Seattle, the Stranger, that I read all the time. I admit, sometimes I read it to see what crazy thing one of them is going to say this time. But I also read it because several of the writers are good, and even when they aren’t, they often cover stories no one else does. The story I’m about the link for you was covered by lots of people. It was about a horrific double-rape, murder and attempted murder. About a pair of women waking up, one with a knife to her throat, the evening after they had a fitting for the dresses for their commitment ceremony. Only one of the women survived, and eventually she testified before a jury about that night.

Eli Sanders wrote a series of stories about the crime, the investigation, the perpetrator, and the process of how we, as a society, investigate and handle horrific crimes. All of the stories were good, but he was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for the tale of testimony the surviving partner eventually was able to give.

He called it, The Bravest Woman in Seattle. I cried the first time I read it last summer. I cried when I tried to explain to someone about the story that made me cry. I cried when I read again today after learning it had won a Pulitzer. I cried when I tried to tell Michael the link I was looking for.

Back in the days I was writing for college newspapers and thinking of possibly going into journalism as a career, that’s the kind of story you hoped someday you would get to tell.

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