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.