Playing with the Kids

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Playing with the Kids An exert from my book: A View from the street / River City Policing

In the late 80s I was working in the detective division in property crimes. That meant I got all the burglaries, vandalism, thefts and neighborhood disputes.

At that time there was a juvenile male; he was 14 or 15—years-old. He was a particularly nasty young man who seemed to take great delight in harassing his neighbors. His main weapon of antagonism was to throw dog feces on the roofs and doorsteps of his neighbors. Occasionally he would damage cars by keying the paint or throwing dog feces on them.

The patrol officers would take reports and send them to the detective division for follow-up. On several occasions I made contact with the young man’s parents in an attempt to get them to more closely supervise the young man. Since both parents worked and he was too old for day care, the parents were disinterested in my efforts to curtail their son’s extracurricular activities.

Living on the same block with this young man was an insurance investigator who had become one of his regular targets. The insurance investigator had personally witnessed some of the incidents perpetrated by this protagonist. To solve this problem I enlisted the aid of this insurance investigator.

I instructed him in the manner of writing statements acceptable to the courts. It wasn’t long before I started receiving regular statements, signed by this insurance investigator under oath.

This gave me the weapon I needed to get the young man’s attention. Every statement that I got from this investigator allowed me to issue a criminal citation for the alleged offense. I forwarded the same to the juvenile court for prosecution.

The juvenile court system is set up so that points are issued for each individual offense committed. Burglaries three points, malicious mischief one point, homicide 15 points; whatever they did, they received a point. It was sort of like military demerits at West Point. As points were accumulated they added up. If I were to send one citation alleging several violations such as vandalism, the citation would generate one point. If I sent multiple citations over a period of time for the same number of offenses, he would get a point for each offense.

When the insurance investigator started sending the complaint statements, I wrote a citation for each offense. I sent them in immediately. This gave him multiple offenses over several weeks. The juvenile court would process one offense, and then several weeks later they would issue a summons. The young man would have to appear in court. Because of the time between charges and the sheer number of charges, the court had to deal with each offense separately. Because each charge was dealt separately, the points added up and he started being locked up on the weekends

Of course this generated a complaint that this young man was being picked on by me. When a complaint of this nature is generated, there is, quite naturally, a meeting set up between my superiors, myself, and those alleging the complaint. At this meeting, I explained to all those present that I did not have time to sit and babysit this young man. The neighbors on the street where they live were extremely upset with our suspect. The actions being taken were a direct result of the criminal acts of this young man.

I gave them this analogy. I was an artillery battery. He was the enemy. I had forward observers sending me his movements. I had him bracketed, and every time he made a move, I could lob an artillery shell to the juvenile courts and he would be pulled in along with his parents. The parents would have to take off work. This could get costly. When the realization trickled through their minds, the light went on. The young man’s fascination with disrupting the peace and tranquility of his neighborhood ended.

This wasn’t the first time that I had to enlist a community to help in the restoration of law and order. The juvenile courts are afflicted with a malady I will term dysfunctional do-gooder syndrome, or DDS.

DDS causes those afflicted to be incapable of understanding the seriousness of a juvenile’s behavior patterns. The victims of their criminal acts are treated as part of the problem. The prevailing wisdom of those affected by DDS is that they are the reason the child acts up. Hence we get programs such as victim perpetrator reconciliation. This is ridiculous.

I had a young man whose father was a minister. This young man was committing burglaries in a neighborhood adjacent to the church where the father was a pastor. The neighborhood being victimized was predominantly older retired individuals in one of our wealthier neighborhoods. I had been to numerous crime scenes in the neighborhood. I had taken fingerprints and had identified the perpetrator. I had submitted numerous cases to juvenile court.

Every time the young man appeared in court he would be released to his father. His father apparently had the courts convinced that he had the ability to straighten the young man out. He was repeatedly released and repeatedly returned to his father and he would repeatedly reoffend. There seemed no end to the cycle. A meeting was called with the homeowners.

At this meeting, I explained the situation to approximately 15 elderly women. I organized a round robin telephone complaint hotline directly to the office of the prosecuting attorney. Within three days I was called into the Chief’s office and asked, “What the hell is going on? The prosecuting attorney wants every single case that this young man has been involved in. He wants every case that is likely to be filed, or can be filed in the next two weeks.”

After gathering all this information and submitting it to the prosecuting attorney, the young man disappeared from the face of the earth. I never heard from him again. I never knew what happened to him. He simply disappeared. Peace and tranquility returned to Mortgage Hill.

The DDS folks can’t stand political heat from the old ladies. It is a good idea for all police detectives to keep this fact in mind and to recruit a hoard of pissed off old ladies when you have one of those “problems you would like to have disappeared.”

S Henry Knocker

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