I Saw A Crime

I witnessed a crime the other day. I was walking along the sidewalk, toward the campus at which I work, when I heard a man yelling from a house across the street. Immediately I saw a young, skinny, black fellow running from a backyard followed by an older, white fellow who was quickly falling behind. The young, skinny, black fellow jumped on his bike and made it a few yards down the road when he accidentally dumped it on the ground. He turned to the older, white fellow, who was now a safe distance away, and said, “Sorry! I didn’t mean it, I was looking for something for my family” Watching all this I stood there wondering if this was some sort of domestic matter, as it didn’t appear that the young, skinny, black fellow had anything that he might have stolen. After his apology, the young, skinny, black fellow jumped on his bike and took off. Afterwards I walked up to the older, white fellow’s wife and asked if they were alright, and inquired about what happened. She told me that she went out into her garage and found the young, skinny, black fellow going through their cupboards apparently looking for food.

Later, as I walked across the campus processing what I just witnessed, I began to wonder if I should have tried to apprehend the man, if my hesitation to respond was legitmate caution, confusion, or just cowardice. While continuing to walk I became increasingly uncertain about how to assess my inaction, the older couple’s violation, and the desperation of a young man.

5 Responses to “I Saw A Crime”

  1. Simon  

    You know mate 99% of people would have done the same. it’s like when you get robbed, you just stand there thinking “what?” and then you’re robbed, and if you’re really unlucky your injured too. After the fact people think “Damn, I should have done…” But in reality you are at an immediate disadvantage because you are not expecting to be robbed so therefore while you are trying to process this very unusual event, the event is already either over or nearly over.

    When I am out with cops I’m ready for this kind of thing precisely because I’m in that mode. Just as a race car driver is able to take amazing avoidance maneuvers at 200-mph when on any other day he might be buggered if something happened suddenly in front of him.

    I tend to find that the reason I have so many stories is because I am generally very alert and aware of stuff around me. So when I see someone acting suspiciously I approach them and then the story unfolds from there. I think it’s fair to say that most other people wouldn’t have even seen the suspicious person in the first place. Then of course even if they had most people aren’t dumb enough to get involved like me! Doh! :-)

  2. Anthony Velez  

    Yeah, in general I am not that good at dealing with the unexpected. One of the things that crossed my mind afterwards is that maybe I should learn to act and then assess as opposed to assess then act. Of course, that kind of orientation is not without its faults as well. Another thing that crossed my mind is that if the white fellow had yelled something obvious (and cliche) like “Stop! Thief!” then I would have known what was going on, and I think I would have dropped my bag and pursued the guy. I know it sounds stupid, but I initially thought that some Father was having a dsyfunctional domestic dispute with his foster son. I mean, what kind of thief apologizes for his actions?!?

    At the time of writing this story, I made a connection between how skinny the guy was, and his apology, and that’s when I began to perceive him as desperate. I decided that he wasn’t some kind of punk hoodlum, but rather a person driven to crime because of poverty. In saying this, I don’t mean to excuse his behavior, but I also don’t want to overlook the systemic problems of the society I live in. So really, the crime that I witnessed was multiple, the crime of affluence and poverty, the crime of violation, and the crime of inaction.

  3. Simon  

    I put it to you Mr Velez that one of the most common traits of those afflicted with a serious drug addiction is a thin appearance beyond that which is either attractive or healthy. Would it be a fair suggestion to say that perhaps this would-be thief might have just been a drug addict driven to crime to support his destructive habit.

    Given the fact that there is quite a lot of help for the poor, but not much acceptance for antisocial drug addicts who tend to develop a thieving habit quickly I wonder if it isn’t a wild jump to suggest that maybe this young man was indeed a drug addict forced to rob garages because the local stores know who he is and have long since banished him?

    Either way, the tale is sad. Sadder still is that while a poor person might accept help a drug addict rarely does.

  4. Anthony Velez  

    You are right. The man could have been a drug addict, and his whole line about looking for something for his family could have been a load of bull. I, naively enough, didn’t even think about that. I also agree that it is still sad, but I do have one qualification. There are free programs for people who want to come out of drug addictions, and so if he wanted to change his life there are resources. However, I also realize that people in bondage to drugs are not generally of the mind to make such a decision. The tension in this situation is between personal responsibility, and the systemic forces that victimize some people. And, even though working through issues like this rarely leads to clear answers, I would hope it would spark some compassion for “the dregs of society”

  5. Simon  

    That is why I termed it an “affliction.” The problem is often this, people who are poor don’t want to be poor and aspire to something better. Sadly with drug addicts the same may be the case, but the reality is that most drug addicts either don’t think they have a problem, or think they can handle it. This makes them very hard to help. To illustrate that point I would say this, it’s easier to pull a drowning man out of water when he is looking for something to grab onto. It’s harder to pull the same man out of water if he hasn’t yet accepted he’s drowning.