04 June 2008

Why Call the Police?

I called the police an hour ago. Eight people were sharing a crack pipe on the sidewalk across the street from my window. I see lawbreakers everyday, but I don't call the police that often. After 10 minutes or so the dealer ambled away. The others stared into space, mumbled and left one at a time, leaving only two, quietly talking. No police. They did their drugs and didn't harm anyone, except themselves. At least not tonight. Is it worth even calling? I'm not even sure the stuff should be illegal. Should I call if someone is smoking pot? What if it was wine, malt liquor or littering? I think the police would rightly laugh if I called on a litterer.

The last time I remember calling the police, a guy was punching his girlfriend. Now that is a clear reason to call. That time I also inserted myself into the situation, by yelling at the guy before calling the police. Tonight, I could have just called out the window to the people to go away, and they probably would. They weren't looking for trouble.

I've had neighbors move, because they just couldn't stomach the ugliness they saw. One neighbor, who I think was studying to become an pediatrician, said he had to leave after seeing a pregnant woman shooting up in the alley outside his window.

Last Friday, some volunteer group completely cleaned-up Washington Park. A bunch of people came, and spread mulch, picked-up litter and made the place look spiffy. Sunday evening, I walked diagonally across the park to take pictures of the demolition at the corner of 12th and Elm, and it was striking how manicured the place looked. Also striking was that at several benches, groups of people sat drinking out of paper bags, and they were surrounded by all kinds of litter that they had discarded as they sat and drank. Should people be ticketed for littering?

Littering and drinking in public doesn't really bother me that much. The Park Board has a guy who cleans up the litter in the park everyday. And, the city comes by at least once a week and sweeps the streets and sometimes the sidewalks. I am more disturbed by loud music at 6:30 AM like we had yesterday. A small group of people were standing by a car, the doors open with a loud stereo, dancing to the music with beer cans in their hands. At 6:30 AM!

There are NA meetings 3 times a week right next door. There are dozens of churches here. There is a Homeless Shelter with a drug treatment program, right across the street. It seems that there are people ready to offer support if you want to get on the wagon.

Is it better that a drug addict be in jail or on the street? Or forced sobriety? Do we need more room at the CCAT? Or more "supportive housing"?

As I type this, I am hearing the street-sweeper coming down the street. I guess it will look clean again in the morning.

...Finally, the police pull up. They talk to the two remaining guys. They end up taking one guy to jail on a capias. Before he gets into the cruiser, he asks the last remaining guy to take his bike somewhere safe. End of night.


scott d said...

good post, mike.

Paul Wilham said...

You know Ive been "Urban Pioneering' for almost 20 years now, and im coming to Cincinnati soon. At times it felt like a warzone. I remember in the early days of my neighborhood, a few years ago, here in Indy installing 10 floodlights on my house so promptly at 10PM when the hookers and drug dealers came out I could hit the magic switch. It was pandemonium, it was funny and today as I get ready to leave this same neighborhood and the families and friends that now live here, I know it was worth the effort, worth the stares,worth the getting yelled at and accused of "gentrification". But I took my neighborhod back and its a better place for it.

VisuaLingual said...

I really wish we could call a moratorium on the term "urban pioneer," unless it's part of a different sort of discussion. This is a great post, Mike.

CityKin said...

I agree. I am no pioneer and there is no wilderness here.

Radarman said...

Littering and drinking in public are petty crimes, no doubt. But they're not victimless crimes. When people litter and booze it up openly and with impunity, they create a crap zone. There is a social agreement that a crap zone is a place where used Pampers on the sidewalk are acceptable and public urination is acceptable and then anyone with any self respect - including - especially including - the working poor - stays the hell out of there. Is that the right thing to do with Washington Park? Elm Street? Race Street?

CityKin said...

Yeah, I agree. I'm just thinking out loud here.. no conclusions.

Is police enforcement the solution? Or more proactive measures? Of course it is both.

I just don't feel comfortable calling the police on some loser, down on his luck and having a beer, and I'm not always sure where to draw the line between what is one person's fun and is my annoyance. Is it illegal, or simply unpleasant? Or is it as you say, destroying the neighborhood?

And then if you call the police, will they come? When I started my post last night, I thought not.

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with radarman. I'm fed up with how the city, or whoever you want to blame, just allows Washington park to be a hang-out for drunks, drug-addicts, homeless, prostitutes, and gangsters.
Letting people openly live their lives that way in a place that was originally built to be a peaceful get away for walks or reading books on the benches is a real shame to our city.
I sincerely hope that with the new renovations planned for this park that police and residents start demanding better behavior here and start showing a little more respect for our wonderful city.
I say, yes definitely call the police. Call them multiple times a day. Tell your neighbors to call them too.
There's absolutely no reason we should be tolerant of this in our own backyards. Its not only an eye sore, but its also dangerous to our entire community. Allowing these people to live like that right out in the open sends a message to them and everyone else around them that its okay. That there's no reason to change their ways when they know they can just sit there and wait for their free sandwiches on saturdays.
Come on Cincinnati, have some respect for yourselves! Don't allow people to literally crap all over your most historic and beautiful neighborhood!

Anonymous said...

It bothers me to rely on the police for issues like this. I disagree that they are violent. I think that there is a difference between being offended and being subjected to a threat or nuisance and believe the police use the same standards.

It bothers me to see people self destruct. It bothers me to people disregard the environment. I would hate seeing a pregnant woman smoke crack. But it doesn't prevent me from enjoying my life. It may for some. The line between nuisance or threat and displeasure is drawn individually.

When I go tot the park I am not threatened. I don't like the litter, but that will change when more people who also don't like it spend time walking and reading in the park. That is what it is for and no one is preventing anyone from doing that.

Relying on the police to exert their power is reserved for times when I don't have the power to enjoy my private property rights.

Great post.

Mark Miller said...

Definitely an excellent post.

One thing to ponder while you're thinking out loud CityKin, is your kids. If you're seeing that stuff routinely, then they are too. And unlike you & your spouse, their values and world-view aren't set yet.

I don't believe we do our children any favors by hiding the harsher realities of the world from them. But these scenes, and our reactions to them, each add threads to the tapestry that will become their psyches. And what's okay to you will likely be seen as okay to them, at least until they reach their rebellious years.

It's a powerful motivation for us to firm up what's right and wrong in our own minds so we can set the right example.

Once you decide you're not going to tolerate a "crap zone", the police decision is easy. They're step 2 when a crapper decides to escalate an encounter. Don't be shy about handing litter back and pointing out the trash can. Be polite but firm. Stand across the street and tell the crack-heads to move the party to a private living room, not a public one. Any lip, and you retreat and report.

If people want to misbehave in their own homes, then they absolutely have that right. But much of this is stuff people wouldn't dream of doing in their own places. Even those without homes need to be held to the same standard of respect for public property.

CityKin said...

I'd like to do a separate post about what the kids see around here, and how it affects them. Maybe suprisingly to some, it has been very positive. Every experience is a chance to learn, as long as we use it as such.

Anonymous said...

One thing to remember, is that every complaint that comes in goes into a data base. The police use this data to assign manpower to different areas. So this should give a good reason to call even if the police don't show up.

Anonymous said...

When you have an emerging neighborhood like OTR; where the list of those with a social conscience is fairly short, it behooves those on that list to call more than they might if they lived in a more stable neighborhood.

Jimmy_James said...

^ Great points, jfd. And great post Citykin. One question I'd like to add, though. If the situation was reversed, and OTR was a grand neighborhood declining instead of diamond in the rough that is revitalizing, would your opinion be different? By that, I mean would you feel more inclined to call the police in these situations, in order to keep the neighborhood from sliding further? I don't want to infer too much, but as I read your post it seemed like your level of acceptence could be influenced by an understanding of where the has been for the last several decades. Personally, I'm not sure that these things should be illegal either, but seeing as they are, I think it's worth a call to the police.