Most of you know that I live in a "transitional" neighbourhood. One of those areas where the good try to cohabit in an uneasy truce with the bad element. I love my neighbourhood but I must remember that along with my lovely elderly neighbours and the feeling of community we have in our street, there is another shadier, more sinister side. It is easy to forget about this seamier side but then it will be there right up in your face and be hard to ignore.
When we moved in, in November 2007, there was a "crack shack" across the alley with people coming and going, in and out, all day and night. (We would see addicts lighting up crack pipes at 7 in the morning!). Two houses across the alley were vacant and homeless housed themselves under their porches. An addict OD'd in the shack; I photographed a drug deal going down. The houses sold; the homeless moved on and the crack shack closed down.
I mostly come and go without being accosted; I can put the rubbish bins out in the alley without feeling nervous.
This past week has been a bad one though…..
One night many cruisers, with sirens blaring, raced down our little street, almost taking off as they cleared the speed humps. Shortly after, a helicopter arrived to hover overhead for nearly an hour. I was checking the back door was locked when I noticed two hefty looking policemen standing at the end of our alley. Being extra curious now I peered out and noticed that there were two more policemen at the far end of the alley. While I watched, two K9 officers came down the alley with two dogs. I went to bed as they continued up and down the alley shining lights into backyards and under decks. I didn't think I would sleep but I slept without concern!
The next day the listservs reported that there had been an armed carjacking; a police pursuit, a wrecked car; and 4 offenders arrested. The guns were not found……… Perhaps I should be out there looking under my hydrangeas!
On Saturday night gunshots hid amongst the sound of fireworks and a man lay dead 3 streets from here. I'm sure there were more shots fired that night than the single one to the guy's head. The gunshot triangulation system must have been bordering on a breakdown.
Yesterday afternoon I was on the bottom deck dealing with plants when I noticed a guy walking down the alley.
He saw me and said "How you doin'?" Being the polite person I am I replied "good thanks" but I watched him walk by and noticed a police car approaching slowly from the opposite direction. This guy got level with the driver's door and then took off sprinting. I have to say that the police driver was out of the car amazingly quickly and in pursuit. It looked as though he was closing the distance as they disappeared around the bend at the end of the alley. Meanwhile the other cop had changed seats and taken off - I heard sirens on the parallel street.
I have no idea if they caught the guy or what he might have been picked up for. He was not looking shifty as he walked past me but his behaviour was certainly suspicious once he reached the police car. He had not turned tail and run; he had continued towards the police, which he'd had plenty of time to see coming. Perhaps he was hoping there were some "donut" police inside the cruiser – but he lucked out there.
These events have not unnerved me though perhaps they should. Most of the violent crime is gang on gang related. But, the occasional bystander or innocent homeowner is affected. There is a lot of criticism levelled at the police; they take too long to come; they don't come at all; they don't do anything once they arrive. But I think some kudos should be given to them. They have an incredibly difficult job in an area where racial tensions are ingrained; where there is poverty, Section 8 housing and halfway houses. An area where the bad guys have more firepower and a culture of not snitching on each other.