I have never complained of having to pay property taxes because I realize that it is money needed to pay for important services. Like a police force.
Do I believe that as a society we thoughtlessly put too much hope and resources on enforcement to control and decrease crime? Yes. But in the meantime, and until we decide to tackle crime with more intelligent and lasting measures, hats off to the women and men of our police force.
Having said that, it seems to me that our police department gives the impression that it doesn't understand the needs of Belle Haven, nor takes them seriously. Let me give you an example or two:
Now that the police sub-station at the corner of Willow and Newbrdige is gone, it will be harder to illustrate my point. But for years, as I struggled every morning to get out of the neighborhood, I couldn't help fuming at the 5, 6, 7 red-light runners coming from EPA onto Willow, and blocking the intersection at every cycle of the stoplight. I couldn't help either, wonder why, the police officers whose patrol cars were parked a few feet away from this mayhem, never bothered to come out, and enforce the rules of traffic .
How could they sit in there, oblivious to the disregard for the law, when they should be out there, writing tickets, and in the process generating income for our City coffers? Even worse. What is the message they send to residents with their unwillingness to even once in a while show transgressors that this is not a lawless town?
When I first moved here, my neighbor's sons were young and not well behaved. For some time, they and their friends would loiter in front of my house in the middle of the night. One of those nights, a group of 8-10 of them, decided to tear my fence apart. We called the police, and as they arrived, a few of the young men took off in a car. You would think someone would make an attempt at stopping them to see why they were leaving in such a haste. But no one did.
As I talked to the dispatcher, and the officer stood outside, his radio blasted for everybody to hear me describe what I had seen through the window. The officer demanded that I come out, and point to him whoever I saw destroying the fence, as boards from it lay scattered all over the place. Being a coward, I decided not to go out. The officers left; more disappointed at me, than at the group of guys they left there, free to continue loitering in front of my house. What would you have done?
Another time, as one of my neighbors grew worried with the escalating fight he heard a few houses down from his, he decided that the responsible thing to do would be to call the police for a welfare check. He gave his name, address, and phone number when the dispatcher asked for it. But he was very clear that he preferred to stay anonymous, as not to tick off the neighbors. "All they have to do, is approach quietly, and they will hear the fight. It's so loud, you can't miss it," he told the dispatcher.
Before not too long , there were 2 patrol cars in front of his house, asking him for specifics on what he reported. "That's the last time I reported anything to the police. I have family, I can't afford to have violent neighbors pissed at me, " he says.
One of these days, when I can find the time to do it, I would like to help find ways for the community to work with the police, and viceversa, so problems can be addressed in an intelligent manner. Taking into account that because of bad experiences and real threats, people from rough neighborhoods are afraid to help police be more effective.
But the first step, if the police is going to gain the trust of those willing to help, will be to start enforcing the seemingly harmless transgressions that make people feel hopeless.
About a little red-light enforcement at Willow Road and Newbridge to begin with?