Crime Chronicles


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.  



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45 responses

  1. I can see I live a dull life. Some kids threw eggs at my car one night twenty years ago, but I guess that kinda pales by comparision, doesn't it. I'm surprised the cops ride draft horses. Is there a reason for that?

  2. Never a dull moment in your hood, is there? Without doubt there are good cops and corrupt cops out there, but I must say since I too live in an area with its share of gangs and seamy sorts that they have a fucking hard job. Imagine the challenge of getting up each day and not only putting your life at risk but dealing with low lifes for hours every day, day in and day out, never abating. That alone has gotta be damn discouraging and tough on the emotions. I for one am always appreciative of the good works they do and the heightened patrols in my area, giving silent thanks when a prowler passes. But hey, that's just me. πŸ™‚ Your hood definitely makes for some colorful postings!

  3. LOL @ the eggs. Sometimes I cannot believe I am the same person who came from a small country town and was scared of the local louts who did nothing worse than throwing eggs and the occasional flour bomb! Mmmm… I have just looked at a few sites re the mounted police and can't find anything on why they have draft horses. Boston apparently has them also.

  4. It is funny but I have lived in l these type of areas and most of the time they never really bother you but like all things in the wrong place at the wrong time can bring troubles… almost like living anywhere anymore you never know but it probably dose make life a bit more interesting not necessarily in the good way! But it is better then that good neighborhood where the next door neighbor is found out to be a serial killer with the old he was always nice and quite person! I think at times the give police too much grief over a job most people would not do!

  5. Yes – you are right about the serial killer next door in a nice neighbourhood. We knew what we were getting when we moved here and there are pockets that are worse than others – those are the streets that I would not walk down.

  6. We used to live on the other side of the park where violent crime is virtually non-existent – nice shops, nice streets, no subsidised housing, but also no feeling of neighbourhood – 7 years there and I only knew two people in our building of 12 stories. I did walk fairly blythely around though whereas here I pay attention to what is happening around me and I don't walk around at night time.dealing with low lifes for hours every day, day in and day out, never abating.Yes I agree that must be very demoralising – for every one they take off the street there are 2 or 3 more coming up in the ranks.

  7. You know once I get in the front door it is like being in my own little haven. I also love my decks and the courtyard – and most of the time now, there are not suspicious characters wandering around out there. LOL – though I did say to the manservant that we have no idea what goes on there when we're not looking!

  8. I couldn't take that stress. I need my home to be a quiet sancturary.
    Sadly I think that is the impression that most Australians have of the good old USA…nothing they do seems to make it any better either.

  9. Wow – that sounds like quite an adventurous 'hood! My neighborhood is what I consider transitional — we certainly have our share of characters and plenty of police patrols to keep the bad stuff to a minimum. But I don't think the action here is as intense as it is there.
    I agree about the cops having a tough job. It must be tough to always be on the defensive like that. Most of our "gang" type issues seem to be less violent that bigger cities' gang issues — since we have lots of immigrants and racists, it's a matter of people feeling they're "protecting" their own. I'd imagine that cops probably have their work cut out for them learning all the languages and backgrounds and who-hates-who.
    But I feel the same way about "belonging" here — it's not the nicest place I've lived, but it's got character and, despite some incidents, I like living here. The cookie cutter houses and perfectly manicured lawns don't appeal to me.

  10. I've lived in those neighborhoods. Now I'm next to them in a hood without gunshots. I can't really speak to the change, but if there is more and more community and less of a criminal element, you all may win. It is hard, because the criminal element is human. I've had some good conversations with prostitutes and drug dealers when I was younger. What part of DC do you live in? I'm originally from Maryland and used to live in PG, near the border.Lucy, currently of Seattle

  11. Sounds like my 'hood (Long Beach)!Earlier today I happened to notice a skrawny/skraggly mexican guy walking down the street, carrying a briefcase. Odd – but no biggie. But then he crossed from my house, to across the street, then back the direction he was coming from. Then he started staring and someone and broke into a trot/run. Out my other window, I could see that the person he was looking at was a black woman who didn't seem to even be aware of his existence. So why the hell was he running from her? And what was in his briefcase? Is he the guy who tagged the business at the end of the block on July 4 (HUGE crappy tagging at that)?!?I hear the cops running the intersection in front of my house all the time. I supposed I should be somewhat alarmed that I know their cars by the sound of their engines (they usually run the intersection with sirens off).

  12. My eldest daughter has just completed the Police Entrance Exam. As a direct result of this I have stopped watching Recruits. Watching the cops dealing with so many knuckle heads is not very encouraging.Hope things quieten down for you soon.

  13. Wow, it's not quiet in your neighbourhood is it? We used to get the police down our street a lot but it was just for the domestics that the people across the road had. The worst we get is breaking and entering into cars. At least the crack den has gone, that must be a relief!

  14. I couldn't stand all that violence … I mean, eggs thrown at cars? How awful! … Oh, and your neighborhood sounds pretty bad as well.I worry because I'm the nice quiet guy who lives next door and never bothers anybody …

  15. Your neighborhood is much more exciting than mine…though now that the cop across the street retired, we may see more crime. Most of ours is domestic and drug-related with being a port city. It's much better to respond to a nicety than to ignore it and get a rep among the thieves. Love the cops on horses! Actually, I love the horses.

  16. I used to live somewhere that was pretty to look at but had shady undertones. It was beside a gorgeous railway arch but beyond this was the bad part of the small town. Hoodies regularly snuck through and over our 8 foot fence and usually tried to take stuff from cars in our so called secure carpark. I got bored of paying for windows for my motor, and so did most of the other residents. I now own a 42" Katana sword, which came in very useful when one of the young lady residents was cornered by 3 of these hoodies. I chased them for a fair distance, and for a while they didn't come back. However old habits and all that.I'm usually a very peaceful person and absolutely abhor violence. However I will not stand by while someone (of any sex) is cornered by 3 or more initimidating individuals. Great news about the crack den closing. I liked the pictures too, especially the first one. Denis Leary (one of my all time favourite comedians) did a skit about bike cops in the USA. I laughed so hard I nearly cried.

  17. With the amazing feeling of community we share with the people in our street it is easy to forget that these unsavoury things happen. I do agree that most Australians think that all of America is like I described and all of the time. But, it's not really – when we lived on the other side of the park there had been one murder in 7 years in that Ward! (the fact that it was in the building we lived in is totally weird though!!!). Crime seems to increase in summer…..

  18. I agree about the cookie cutter houses and McMansions with manicured lawns. I love the diversity of where I live which is 60% African American, 34% Hispanic, 3% white and 3% other (mostly Caribbean and Africa).We haven't had many relatives come to stay since we've been here though! πŸ™‚

  19. It's a long way from Maryland to Seattle! When we were looking to buy we took the green line out to Branch Avenue to go to an Open House – I wouldn't leave the station LOL. It looked so isolated.

  20. LOL – Leenda – my first experience with urban gunfire was in Long Beach!! We have friends there and had gone to visit although we did not stay with them as they had a tiny place. I allowed the manservant to choose a hotel (never again). There were gun shots and sirens all night. I think it started with the Taco Bell on the corner being robbed!

  21. Congratulations and good luck to your daughter Peter – I think it is an admirable profession but it has to sap something out of your soul after a while. With my three children living in Australia I am thankful that Oz does not have the same gun culture as we do here. For many years it was illegal to have handguns in DC – this was recently overturned. The law never stopped the bad guys from carrying and using guns though!

  22. Police seem to use all modes of transport here – cruisers, motorbikes, pushbikes, horses, and even those Sedgeway things. I'm a little scared of horses! That's funny – I'm probably more scared of the horses than I am of some of the sketchier people! I would like to see some foot patrols where the police get to know the kids on the blocks ad give a more positive image than maybe some of those kids are learning at home.

  23. Oh that poor young lady must have been terrified. There are still good people who will stand up when it's needed. LOL – at least my 'hood doesn't misrepresent itself by looking too pretty! One look at the boarded up vacant shops, or the bars on windows and bullet proof glass of those open would spoil the pretty image. The liquor store got robbed a couple of weeks ago – they couldn't actually steal any alcohol though because it is all behind the wall of floor to ceiling bullet proof glass which also protects the employees. They made off with a television which was on the wall – unprotected!

  24. I don't get to watch it enough. He is a comedic genius, albeit mainly down to his inspiration – Bill Hicks – another of my favourites.Plus you can't fail to like Diego from the Ice Age franchise.

  25. I'm sure she is equal to the task but I would prefer her to to ask for a country posting. To my utmost amazement most of the recruits want to work in the city to be near "where the action is". I'd be applying for a little country town.Apparently they are the hardest places to fill.

  26. OMG… what part of Long Beach were you in? Sounds like North or West Long Beach – you couldn't pay me to live in either of those areas (though I live adjective to both)

  27. My Lord, this is quite a story. I don't think I can ever be half as brave as you living there. We don't see any neighbors here and I feel shy seeing a groundhog staring at me. πŸ˜›

  28. Makes me thankful to live where I do. Happy that you are able to find sanctuary in your home and it's probably best that all of us don't get to know the worst of things that happen in our communities. Love the pic of the draught horses.Stay safe.

  29. LOL – It has been described to me thus: 2 miles north of downtown (on Pacific) on the west side of Long Beach. They used to live in Signal Hill.The manservant is from LA so I used to see quite a bit of it before his parents moved to Nevada.

  30. With stories like these it's little wonder that none of my rellies come to stay is it! LOL. There is usually a spike in summer – so if you wish to visit me, come in winter …. though all those years in the tropical north might have thinned the blood a little for our winters! But then again, you could make a coat of toad skins perhaps!

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