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Burnett's Urban Etiquette

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Law enforcement rocks when it works, but...

something stinks in my 'hood.

I can call the cops in my fair city about being menaced by a neighbor's unleashed pit bull and get no response, or call them about Sling Blade blasting his stereo over french fried 'taters in his back yard, and get no response, or call them about anything else going down in my hood and get no response, and every time, they tell me it's because officers aren't available for low priority calls.

I think I understand what a high priority call is now. An hour or so ago, I took my dog out for a stroll and a coffee in the heart of downtown, a few blocks from my house, and as we sat and sipped (him from a water bowl), five cops gathered on the corner...downtown, where the worst thing that usually happens is people park at meters without plugging 'em. Those patrol officers stood there shooting the breeze and laughing for half-an-hour, before slowly meandering off in different directions.

Yeah, high priority.

PS. Don't anyone write me about cops having to spend most of their time dealing with the tougher, more violent stuff. I know that. I spent four years as a crime writer before switching to pop culture, and I know it's a tough job. I count lots of cops as personal friends. But I also know that it can't be coincidence that I can't even get a squad to drive by Sling Blade's house or crazy pit bull-owner's apartment, and yet I see the same officers whose patrol zone is my side of the neighborhood always on a park bench or a bar stool (drinking coffee, of course) in the touristy downtown zone a few blocks away.

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  • That makes me think of the time I had my car stolen in Baltimore. I had to call twice before someone finally showed to get a report an hour later.

    By Blogger Claudia, at 5:48 PM  

  • Maybe they have caller ID, James!

    By Anonymous The Sarcasticynic, at 7:37 PM  

  • Sarc, you're probably right, except that I block my number when I call. What really frustrates me is that every police department in a medium to large city in the U.S. still subscribes to the Broken Windows theory that says officers need to keep in check the "minor" violations AKA little things like "broken windows" on abandoned buildings, so that they don't attract and spawn worse behavior. If they really believe that stuff, then send a frickin' task force to the 'ho stroll to arrest the pimps and prostitutes and have the patrol officers in my part of the 'hood - supposedly the good part - go after the leashless pit owners, the stereo blasters, the people who let their lawns grow two feet high, the speeders who use narrow side streets as shortcuts between major thoroughfares. If they don't check these people too then their broken windows are gonna graduate to crumbling houses, figuratively speaking. I live a few blocks from the heart of downtown in my city. They're gonna ignore the "little" stuff until some weekend diner or tourist walks a couple of blocks to their parked car and gets mugged. Then they'll have every officer on the department patrolling downtown and, ironically, paying less attention to the more "serious" stuff.

    By Blogger James Burnett, at 8:12 PM  

  • James! That's too funny.

    EVERY time I receive a phone call from "Restricted," I know a black person wants to talk to me. Hahahaha!


    By Blogger Matt, at 8:51 PM  

  • What if you were to report that Sling Blade was blasting his stereo while simultaneously waving a gun around in his front yard? Or soliciting children? Or opening a Krispy Kreme franchise?

    By Blogger QofD, at 9:49 PM  

  • Matt, stop drinking and go to sleep early tonight.

    Queen, that's not a bad idea. My conscience would probably stop me. But I like the waving the gun idea.

    Maybe I can report that Sling Blade is in a gun fight with unleashed pit bull guy.

    By Blogger James Burnett, at 10:33 PM  

  • Claudia, that's just wrong. I feel for cops, but I see it like military service. It's volunteer. There's gotta be a better system, whereby they can actually tend to our "broken windows" and not just talk about 'em.

    By Blogger James Burnett, at 10:34 PM  

  • yeah that really blows man. its one of those never fails things. ya know?

    never a cop around when you need one. that type of deal.

    this is why i carry a shotgun wherever i go. never know when you need to blow someone's knees off. hehehehe

    By Blogger Yasamin, at 1:11 AM  

  • I wouldn't go running into a neighborhood with an unleashed pitbull either. Although, I do like french fried 'taters. Tough call. Maybe you should open a coffee shop in your 'hood.

    By Anonymous mist 1, at 8:36 AM  

  • cops in miami dysfunctional? why, when everything else is, would you expect cops to be an exception?

    By Anonymous dreaming, at 9:34 AM  

  • When calling the police, you need to remember that embellishment IS, after all, the essence of good storytelling. I like that other suggestion.

    "I think he has a gun" is not lying to a police officer.

    By Blogger Matt, at 10:28 AM  

  • Call up the station house every day and say, "Bad Cop! No Donut!" Then hang up. Eventually they'll notice you, and you can take it from there.

    By Blogger steven, at 10:29 AM  

  • Police men are our freinds.

    At least that's what I was taught in school. ;)


    By Blogger Steven Novak, at 12:54 PM  

  • I would not take that job.

    The police have a high risk occupation.

    I am thankful for what they do.

    And yes, there are good ones and bad ones.

    By Anonymous tony scornavacca, at 1:25 PM  

  • Most cops suck. The rest suck hard.

    It goes back to what I was saying before--they're in it only for themselves, not for us. The way to speak to cops is by cutting their budget. They clean all the crap out of their ears and listen reaaal good then.

    By Anonymous Big Daddy, at 1:55 PM  

  • I have to agree with Tony S. it's a high risk job...I have a sis that is a cop and she has been in several situations that she could have been killed. I don't know how she does it. Definitely not a job for me!!

    By Blogger Claudia, at 4:00 PM  

  • oh, and carry a shotgun?? dang girl!!!

    By Blogger Claudia, at 4:01 PM  

  • lmao! claudia!! yes... yes i do. its pink. it matches my shoes and purse. Don't you know girl? I'm an amazon queen! lol

    look who can log into blogger at work now!?!?!? hell yeah! i won my freaking battle those bastards!

    By Blogger Yasamin, at 5:13 PM  

  • One day after work I went out for a bike ride and wound up hanging with my boyfriend and some of his friends. It got really dark, and I wasn't equipt for a night ride. So my boyfriend was going to take a friend home, and then meet me somewhere to pick me up. Problem being he's lived in this city longer than I have, and he drove away before I wholly understod the location. And since he doesn't carry a cell phone, I couldn't call him to ask. I circled around random streets for about 60 minutes, perhaps looking more lost than I ever have.

    Nearly a dozen times over the course of that 60 minutes, I rode past the same group of six bicycle cops convened in the park just talking. When I finally stopped to ask one if he had any idea where such & such parking lot was, he pointed me in one direction and shouted "remember to signal with your arm!" behind me as I rode on. I heard him laugh before he continued speaking with his friends.

    I'm not sure what that means, really, but your story here reminded me of it.

    By Blogger thirdworstpoetinthegalaxy, at 9:07 PM  

  • I was going to post something really serious but after reading all of the comments I laughed so hard I forgot what I was going to say. Seriously though, it is the same here in our neighborhood. Sometimes I think they just don't care.

    By Anonymous dayngr, at 11:14 PM  

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