Saturday, July 22, 2006

Neighborhoods get a bad rap--is it justified?

I absolutely love the neighborhood where I live as well as the one where I work. But some days, being a part of these neighborhoods frustrate me.

Both are low-income neighborhoods. There are good people in both neighborhoods. Unfortunately, some of the negatives of our community are much more visible and get much more publicity than the positives.

Just this week, Wyshina, my friend and the Assistant Coordinator for our After-School Academy in Turner Courts, witnessed a break in. As she was bringing things in off of her back porch, she saw three teenage boys run out of her neigbhor's back door. She knew her neighbor was at work so she called the police. When the police car arrived, Wyshina explained to him what had happened. One of the three boys was still standing right beside the apartment casually drinking the Gatorade he had stolen from the lady's home! Wyshina pointed him out to the police officer and explained that he was one of the boys who had broken in. Instead of getting out and investigating, the officer said there was nothing he could do and explained that when the lady came back home she should call the police.

Being good neighbors, Wyshina went across the street and got another friend to help her go into the house and move the washer and dryer unit in front of the back door so no one else could go in and then proceeded to sit on the front porch and wait until the lady arrived.

Needless to say, Wyshina was frustrated at the lack of response from the police.

Evidently, the teenager knew nothing would happen or he wouldn't have been so casually sitting outside the apartment drinking the evidence!

What do we need to do?! I realize that not everyone is as bold as Wyshina was. Most of the time in our communities people will witness everything that happened and then refuse to tell the police anything for fear of retaliation or rejection in the community. I know that must be frustrating for the police. So many of the negative activities are connected to family members and friends. No one wants to be the one who accuses a family member or friend. But by denying we know anything, we hurt ourselves and keep our communities from being protected. It all becomes a vicious cycle.

We don't trust the police --> The police can't do their job --> Our communities remain unhealthy with negative activity --> The police wrongly accuse people and harass people because of the neighborhood and its assumed activities --> We don't trust the police.

I realize we have a long way to go in cleaning up our communities. I realize that the police probably don't want to waste their time on people who deny they saw anything. But why can't the police value people like Wyshina...a person who takes the risk to boldly point out the person...and at least look into what she witnessed?
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