‘Freeze! Drop those gourds!’
Let me state, for the record, that I am a supporter of our law-enforcement services, and am generally considered a lawful citizen, especially after watching a few episodes of ‘OZ’ (the prison show, not the one about the Tin Man and Dorothy). Pretty sure I’d end as someones better half on day one if I ever got sent to the big house.
There has been a surge of news reports about vigilante attacks on alleged wrong-does. Stories like the now infamous Zimmerman trial come to mind. This blog is not about the Zimmerman trial, so don’t get all excited, although I don’t advocate carrying around a weapon in the event something might happen – I think that’s just looking for trouble, and it’s totally illegal in Canada..
Close to home, there was a story of a local dentist who had her I-phone stolen out of her car. She was able to track the thieves through a handy Apple GPS system, but the police could not or would not engage in apprehending the aforementioned bad guys.
She ended up finding, confronting, and ultimately regaining her property. I say, ‘Good for her!’. She was lambasted on a call-in show a few days later about her ‘stupid’ actions.
I knew a very kind and timid lady who worked in a gift store not too far from where I live. I’ll call her Doris. Doris was one of those quiet-spoken people – the kind who would scoop up a spider in a paper and guide it out the door rather than squish it.
One day, a man came into Doris’ store – she was the manager, not the owner. He pulled out a knife, demanding money. Doris, in a fit of rage, started screaming at the would-be thief and chased him out of the store. Later, she admitted to me, she didn’t know why she did that. It was a foolish and dangerous thing to do, but something just ‘snapped’ in her about how this stranger would try to take what was not his.
In both of these instances, the comments were similar. It wasn’t the money, or the value of the item, it was the fact that someone was taking what was not theirs. It was about invading a moral code that most of us live by, and it was enough to make both of these ladies risk their own safety to protect the sanctity of what was right.
I admit, these are not major crime events, but the base instinct is probably the same, regardless of the severity of the indiscretion.
A neighbour of mine, after finding out that his son’s skateboard was stolen from his garage and was in the hands of a kid who lived around the corner, stormed over to demand that the kid come out and return what was not his. Of course, no one came to the door. This guy was so stubborn and angry, (did I mention that he was Scottish?) that he went home, and literally looked through the entire phone book to find the address of the kid.
side note: this was before the fancy ‘interweb’ and reverse address look-ups.
He eventually found the phone number, called the kid and told him that if the skateboard wasn’t back in the garage in 30 minutes, he’d ‘take care of the #@*% thief himself’. No police – just him.
The skateboard was back right on cue. Clearly, he scared the you-know-what out of the kid. I bet he went straight after that, too!
Around the same time, we had a number of vandalism issues – mostly stupid stuff that kids would do – spray paint on the cars, or damage to fences and trees. There are few things worse than bored kids on a hot summer night.
That fall, we had set up a nice front step Halloween display. Modest, but tasteful. Okay, it was way over the top. Bails of hay, decorations looming in the darkness, back-lit styro-foam tombstones on the lawn. You get the picture.
Anyway, one evening as we were heading to bed, all of us in our pajamas, and the kids tucked into their beds, my wife went to shut off the front porch light, and noticed a couple of kids, standing in our driveway. I ran to the door to find that a couple of our pumpkins were missing, and a group of kids were running like hell away from the house. Something snapped in me.
Like some crazed lunatic, I took off after them, in my pajamas. I don’t even think I was wearing shoes. The kids scattered into two smaller groups, trying to lose me.
I saw the larger group, still holding a 30 lb pumpkin, heading down the street, while the smaller group dashed into a forested area. I went after the stupider group, still lugging around the pumpkin. There were 4 of them.
Eventually, they tossed the evidence, which smashed on the sidewalk, but I kept going.
The kids rounded a corner, thinking they’d be safe. They weren’t. Not even thinking of what I’d do with them when I caught them, kind of like a dog chasing a car, I kept running. The other kids came around and I was now finding myself standing on a street corner at night, wearing my pajamas, no shoes, and surrounded by a group of teens.
The one thing that saved me was that they were on the defensive and were afraid of what I might do to them – I mean, a guy would have to be totally nuts to chase them that long in his pajamas, right?
When they finally gave up, one of the kids, clearly terrified, yelled;
‘Man, it’s only a pumpkin!’
I said; ‘No, it’s not just a pumpkin. Its vandalism, and its stepping on my property to do damage.’
I continued, between heavy breaths, ‘Our neighbourhood has been constantly attacked by you little punks, and we’ve had it!’. No more calling the cops. We’re gonna chase you right to your front doors and confront you in front of your parents, or deal with you where we catch you.’
Now, I knew full well that I wasn’t going to harm any of them, and there really wasn’t a lot I could do, so I gave them a warning. ‘You tell your friends that if we ever see them around our street again, up to no good, we’re gonna take care of them so they never forget it’.
These ultimatums are great, because you don’t have to do anything more than scare the bejeezers out of the little runts. They don’t know that you really can’t do much other than confront them, so it generally works.
When I got back home, my wife wasn’t too happy about me going after a group of teenagers in my pajamas late at night, and when some of my friends found out about what happened, I earned the nickname ‘Pumpkin Cop’.
I guess I deserved it, but I gotta tell you – we never had another problem after that.
Officially, I’m sure that most police services would tell you not to engage any criminal in this way, but off the record, I’ll bet they’re happy we do. They don’t have the manpower to show up for every little thing that happens, and I’m sure they’re annoyed by that. Dealing with kids during the impressionable times of their growth in a scared-straight kind of way might just steer them in a better direction.
The Pumpkin Cop is not unlike Batman. Trying to keep our streets safe from the ne’er do wells of society. Now I need a costume and a signal of some sort…any ideas?