Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Forty per day

It’s a new school year and a bunch of students have moved into the neighborhood. One set of them sent me a nice note telling me they were going to have a party and would try not to disturb me. Then came the hootin’ and hollarin’ at three in the morning as these kids screamed their way out into the street with nary a thought that somebody might be disturbed. “Sorry,” one guy explained to me when I went out to ask them to move on. “They’re drunk.”

Another girl neighbor, living alone, was brought home the other night by not one but two cop cars, too drunk to make it home on her own. God knows the story on how the cops made that decision.

These are upper middle class kids in Berkeley. In their mid twenties attending graduate school. Compared to the poor kids on harder drugs than alcohol, they’re highly disciplined, and maybe I should be grateful.

This morning’s Chronicle has a front-page article on the robbery surge in the Bay Area. For a while there I was stomping around helping rustle up some interest in the fact we have 1.5 muggings a day in Berkeley. The police chief comes to talk, tells us we are lucky we are not Oakland, and we all go back to what we were doing, comforted by the notion that while we are being mugged every day, somebody else a couple miles to the South has it worse.

Now, it turns out there’s a huge spike in violent crimes all over the Bay Area. The Bay Area is running an average of 40 muggings a day. No kidding. A day. Most unnerving are the blatant daytime robberies in downtown streets and the dozen or so robberies in recent weeks in restaurants. They come in, rob the cash register, tell all the customers to put their wallets on the table, scoop them up and clear out.

Oakland Mayor Dellums, on those rare occasions when he is in town, gives speeches in which he pronounces such goings-on “unacceptable.” And people go back to what they were doing. We’re wondering if Sarah Palin wouldn’t mind being mayor here for a while, maybe fly around and shoot these wolves from an airplane.

The connection I’m making here is that word is out that many, if not most, of these hold-ups at gun point seem to be by kids, some as young as fifteen. People are trying to make the connection with hard economic times. I’m not sure the word is in yet – how could it be when they don’t have a clue to any of these guys’ identities? I’m going with money for a crack habit.

It may be economic, of course. While on page A6 you read that former California Republican Governor Pete Wilson is in St. Paul complaining how the Democratic Party is playing the “class warfare” card and we should vote for McCain because he puts America first and doesn’t tax the rich, you turn to the editorial page (B4) and read that poverty in America went from 11.9% in the 1990s to 12.5% for the past couple of years. Uninsured went from 39.8 to 45.7 million since the beginning of the Bush Administration, and the top 1% of the population now rake in 23% of the total income.

But all this could be coincidental. Maybe it’s just global warming. Which, according to Sarah Palin, is not man-made. And polar bears are not going extinct. And even if they are, we need the oil. And when 17-year-old daughters get pregnant, it’s not because of abstinence education, it’s just bad luck. And did you note she wants to put creationism back into the schools?

Remember the good old days before the outrageous became the commonplace, if not the laudable?

Where was I? Oh, yes. Forty robberies a day in the Bay Area. Up 40% between 2004 and 2007.

Somebody help, please!

1 comment:

:: doris said...

Definitely just global warming. What do we need polar bears for? And yes, life happens in the best families... Ahhh, aren't this exciting times?