From ending gun violence meeting- to meeting a gun on the street

I’m still not sure what I was thinking, or if I was thinking. But, it has me thinking (and writing in a stream of consciousness style- sorry).

I was headed back from the Wesley Center on Delphos where I had met with Dr. Robert Walker and Shallom Coleman and others to discuss ways to stop gun violence in our community. Gary Leitzell was there, as was Abner Orick, and other grassroots leaders. The effort is called CIRGV- for Community Initiative to Reduce Gun Violence.

I was on a scooter, wearing a bright yellow jacket. It was just before 8pm, and I was hungry as I headed East on W. Third. On my right, a young man appears, holding a rifle with a scope, much as we would on patrol when I was in the Army- walking at a brisk pace West on Third. He kept looking over his left shoulder and was clearly shaken.

I passed him, as I saw him cross the street to the North side. I did a U-turn and followed him as he headed North on Marion. I pulled up and asked him what he was doing walking with a gun. He didn’t seem to hear me- so I asked again, and said I’m talking to you. He looked at me as if I wasn’t there- and said “I’ve been robbed” and gestured to his right elbow that had a scrape. He was looking past me- I asked if he wanted me to call the police- he just kept walking- at no point did the gun come up. Or did he look like he could actually use it. It was a small caliber rifle, probably a .22, or maybe even a pellet gun.

My cell says I called 911 at 7:59pm. The first cruiser appeared in maybe 6 minutes. I was on the phone giving a description for 3. In that time, a woman came up the street who had also seen the same kid- she had on a Montgomery County Solid Waste t shirt.

I talked to her until we saw the first cruiser- which I flagged down- and pointed which alley our lone rifleman had scampered down. There were people sitting across Third watching the whole thing- a car, with tinted windows and big chrome wheels started to come down the alley I was in- while waiting for the cops, but turned around. Several cars that looked like they were a bit too nice for the ‘hood had also stopped and gawked. And, I’m sitting on a scooter in a jacket that makes me look like a bumble bee with a white bowling ball helmet for a head.

Two cruisers did a sweep- as did I. To me, the guys strategically standing on corners talking on cell phones looked clearly like sentries- the cars pulled up mid street at the intersections- in between the lookouts.

I came back around to the now, two cruisers- both with a single officer in them. They hadn’t seen him- but, then again, they wouldn’t get out of their cage and talk to people either.

I’m not faulting the officers- or their response time. It’s really an issue for the people who were on the street, and live their. No one else seemed to mind a guy running down the street with a rifle.

It’s probably not a good idea for anyone to do what I did. Best to speed up- and run away. Write the neighborhood off- as it seems we’ve already done.

I do think that we might have more effective officers if we pull them out of their cruisers, and instead- send them out on scooters in the summer. It’s amazing how much easier it is to talk to someone from a scooter, instead of from the inside of car.

But, ultimately, it comes down to the community. Are the sentries on the corner ok with you? The deals? The guns? Have the people who live along that stretch of West Third given up? Should we? I don’t think so.

Which brings me back to Dr. Walker and his initiative. He has his catalyst group working on the problem- when he has a plan, are you going to be part of the solution?

The problem won’t go away by doing nothing.

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15 Responses

  1. Mike McDermott July 2, 2009 / 12:40 am
    David, I am not sure if you were crazy to do what you did, or brave, or a little of both. You describe it almost like a warzone.. something you would see just as commonplace in Mosul or the Gaza Strip.
    I applaud your bravery and gusto, but I have to believe that there has to be a better answer than this. And if we clean up W Third Street, doesn’t the “action” just move to a more hospitable clime like W Fourth, or Sixth, and so on?  How do we make it unacceptable for this activity to occur anywhere in Dayton?

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  2. David Lauri July 2, 2009 / 12:42 am
    Pulling police officers out of their cruisers and making them walk our neighborhoods would be a wonderful step.

    I was just in NYC for Gay Pride (and yes, Pizzabill, this has to do with the topic at hand).  It was the 40th anniversary of Stonewall, the riots that erupted for 3 nights in June 1969 after the NYC police raided the Stonewall Inn and the fags and the dykes and the drag queens finally decided they’d had enough of our bars being raided simply because for being gay bars (used to be it was illegal for homosexuals to congregate in public drinking establishments).  In stark contrast to 40 years ago, now the NYPD and New York City’s LGBT community have a good relationship.  There were police officers all along the parade route, and they were friendly, interacting with parade volunteers and participants and watchers.  After the parade, in the Village, which was packed with people celebrating for hours, police officers were walking the streets, but they didn’t seem menacing at all.  Instead they helped to make sure things didn’t get out of hand, helped direct local traffic around barricades on closed streets, helped people with directions, were of service to their community, a community that includes queers.

    We’ve got a ways to go in the rest of the country.  In Dayton we have our own Pride parade, and Dayton cops provide security but they don’t seem as comfortable doing so as the men and women of the NYPD.  Say “Happy Pride, officer!” to a New York police officer, and you’ll get a pleasant response back; say it to a Dayton cop and you’ll get a bemused, kind of scared look (OMG, a faggot’s actually talking to me!).

    In Fort Worth, Texas, 40 years after Stonewall, the local police apparently think they can still go into the gay bars and beat queers senseless.  (See http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5inay7yPkkTDQNAchI0fOrLZxCdCAD995VEN80 or http://news.google.com/news/story?hl=en&esrch=BetaShortcuts&q=fort+worth+gay+bar+police&um=1&ie=UTF-8&ncl=ddfwJ6lzu-aHZWM&ei=2jlMSu7QDdK_twemseG3AQ&sa=X&oi=news_result&ct=more-results&resnum=1)

    That is getting a bit off topic, but not entirely.  My point is that a community’s police force should have a good relationship with the citizens they’re supposed to be protecting.  Getting out of their cages/cruisers and onto their feet or scooters would be a good step.

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  3. David Lauri July 2, 2009 / 12:57 am
    @Mike: How do we make it unacceptable for this activity to occur anywhere in Dayton?

    I seem to have New York City on my brain right now, but the book I read on the plane to and from NYC was The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell, and in chapter 4 he talks about how NYC reclaimed its subways.  The trains used to be graffiti covered and crime used to be rampant.  The problem seemed insurmountable, but they way they overcame it was by paying attention to the small things.  They adopted a zero tolerance policy on graffiti.  Every car was checked at the end of the line, and any car that had graffiti was pulled off and painted over.  Instead of ignoring the comparatively small crime of fare jumping (which is smaller than robbery or assault, to be sure), they started monitoring the turnstiles and arresting fare jumpers.  Starting with the small stuff made people realize that they needed to have respect for the rules and for their community.

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  4. David Esrati July 2, 2009 / 6:58 am

    @David L- the broken window concept has been around for a long time- taking care of the small things and the big things disappear.
    @Mike, in retrospect, what  I did was crazy, but, then again, people still ask why I used to jump out of perfectly good airplanes for my country. In retrospect, it was very dumb, but, then again- so was the student in Tiananmen Square facing down a tank.
    The irony of leaving a meeting talking about gun violence- and then seeing the kid with a rifle, plus my “I look so out of place” in this picture was a bit too much for me to ignore- and probably for others. Although it sounds counter intuitive- maybe making the cops stand out like sore thumbs instead of able to blend in- makes sense. As a Police officer, I know I’d have second thoughts about having a walking target on for clothes, but, if the idea is higher police visibility- maybe it’s time to don bright lime green- like the “Downtown Ambassadors.”
    I know the reason mounted police are effective in crowd control is because they can be seen above the crowd (and horses are big- and lovable)- maybe we’ve been missing the idea.
    The part that the media downplays is that most of these homicides are drug related. Our “War on Drugs” has its casualties, and will continue to have them. I’ve said before, that decriminalizing pot would be a good first step.
    I’ll have more when I release my draft “Manifesto” for putting Dayton back on track.
    Thanks

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  5. Mike McDermott July 2, 2009 / 9:10 am
    @DavidL I can appreciate the changes that Guiliani made in DC, but here in Dayton we seem to be going in a different direction. Have you read the articles of how we are using public city funds to support graffiti “artists” http://daytonos.com/?p=6731 
    Yes, some folks believe that the graffiti “artists” are misunderstood and that we should allow places for them to legally deface public property.
    I guess there is no thought being given to finding these foks jobs, or if these folks do have some god given painting talent, let them join the City graffiti removal team and get paid to paint on public property.
    @DavidE I like your ideas and appreciate your dedication to the city of Dayton. You may want to soften the name of your term paper though. While I am sure it suggests great and important changes for Dayton, the term “manifesto” harkens “Unabomber” in public culture.
    I am curious as to how you would execute these great changes after the current administration has fully indebted the treasury, chased away tax paying businesses, and replaced private investment with public welfare and general malaise. Is there a point that you reach where private investment opportunities and community building becomes futile? Look at the Dayton Convention Center. That huge centerpiece in the center of the city, that no one wants to use to have any serious event. The last I checked, our massive convention center was being used for tap dance recitals and wedding receptions instead of multi-day national business conferences.

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  6. Walnut Hills July 2, 2009 / 9:31 am
    Where is Larkin to quickly down play the shooting gallery occuring at West Third & James H. Mcgee and tell us how bad things really are on the East Side? What strikes me about this post is the attitude of the neighbors. When an armed robbery turned into a double homocide in Belmont a few years ago a concerned citizen jumped off his porch and pursued the two armed killers, catching one on foot which lead to the arrest of the second hous later. A neighborhood is people, nothing more. Not schools or rec centers or grocery stores. Quality Neighborhoods have quality people. I have to believe that the fact that the only shooting in my area, as tragic as it was, ended with a regular person going after the perps themself has something to do with the fact that it doesn’t happen every week like in other areas of town.  

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  7. David Esrati July 2, 2009 / 9:49 am

    @Mike- it all begins with engaging people, and having leadership that speaks with a clear voice.
    Manifestos are just that, manifestos. You draw your own comparisons to the Unabomber or to Karl Marx, the reality is- we need a platform for discussion of how to solve problems, not wishy-washy feel good leadership by committee.
    I see opportunity for Dayton everywhere- because we have no where to go but up, from this point (at least with new leadership).

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  8. tg July 2, 2009 / 11:54 am
    @Mike – there is a difference between taggers and graffit artists – the former is mindless vandalism and latter literally is an art form which can be quite amazing.  Many cities have provided appropriate venues for the artists to create some amazing work.  Check out C}Space some time.

    @David Lauri – there is a lot to be said about the Broken Windows concept.  What was fascinating about the NY Subway story is that in arresting fare jumpers they were catching many repeat offenders with outstanding warrants.

    @Esrati – I missed the early meetings so I’m not on the contact list for those meetings, but I am very curious how does a community deal with a mindset that thinks there is little worse than snitching?  I believe Baltimore has a project that involves teaching the difference between being a good citizen (giving information to crimes you witness) vs snitching (turning someone in to get even).
    @Walnut Hills – I think you really hit the nail on the head.  So much depends on what neighbors will tolerate.    When neighbors file reports, provide descriptions and information and keep an eye on each other, there isn’t as much crime.   Which comes back to the broken windows concept – when you have eyes on the street, criminals will take their biz elsewhere because they don’t want to be watched.

    Or as a cop friend of mine likes to say “they’re like cockroaches – you shine a light on them and they scamper”.  If everyone in the community keeps shining the light, then eventually they’ll move on.  As long as they’re behavior is tolerated or condoned, they’ve no reason to move on.

    @Esrati – I’m also not sure if what you did was brave or stupid, but I’m glad you’re safe. 

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  9. Drexel Dave Sparks July 2, 2009 / 2:08 pm
    Why is DE the only one stating the obvious: the drug war is the cause of all this.

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  10. Jeff July 2, 2009 / 2:52 pm
    Esrati’s quite observant of the context.   Looks like you stumbled into a situation were people are protecting their turf and keeping an eye out while the cops and this strange guy on a scooter intrude into their environment.

    From the “snitch” perspective, the consequences of “helping” the police could be dire, so tthe law abiding citizens try aovid trouble and don’t see anything.

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  11. In the 'burg July 2, 2009 / 5:28 pm
    It’s not the yellow jacket that will get you into trouble, it’s the matching ass-less chaps.

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  12. Jeff July 2, 2009 / 8:48 pm
    Dave…you are crazy…jumping out of planes, swimming with sharks, russian roulette, all are much safer than a west side waltz on Delphos Avenue.  The streets are all these people have, they wear their false bravado like cheap cologne.  They have little need for the “po-po”  as anyone can see by watching the nightly news, they will take care of their problems themselves.  If you snitch, they retaliate.  If you even associate with the cops at all you could be retaliated against.  Street justice isn’t intelligent but it is highly effective.  I gotta give you credit for turning around on your scooter, it was either a huge testicular moment or an act of ignorance.  Glad it worked out for you this time.  Gun control is a funny thing, seems the only people that get caught up in it are people who own guns safely.  The criminals will always be armed and will never have a problem finding them.

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  13. Civil Servants are People, Too July 3, 2009 / 12:43 am
    “Have you read the articles of how we are using public city funds to support graffiti “artists” http://daytonos.com/?p=6731

    For the record, this is simply false.   The “legal walls” are where private owners give permission to artists to paint.    The C[space is a private venture.   And, the City is spending thousands of dollars removing graffiti every year.    They are actually very effective at it, given the limited resources.  

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  14. Ice Bandit July 3, 2009 / 1:08 pm
      The error, dear David, is your cultural chauvinism in assuming that all neighborhoods value a police presence as much as you do. Agreed, you have been the recent victim of theft and your justifiable outrage is noted.  My guess, dear David, is that the folks in that neighborhood may not have seen the courage and altruism you displayed, and instead cursed you as a caucasian, busybody interloper. We all know that you can’t drive down East Fifth Street without almost hitting a hooker, and you can’t find (even if you’re looking) one past the 1100 block of South Main. It is the iron law of tolerance; your neighborhood will get the conduct it tolerates; be it prostitution, open-air crack deals or random shootings. The “no snitch” culture was not created in a vacuum. The answer may to channel police protection where it is appreciated (oh I don’t know, maybe South Park) at the expense of areas that consider the po-po an occupying army. Do I expect our elected servants to grow some cajones and advocate that position, uh, noooooooooooo……………

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