Friday, December 14, 2007
Yesterday, while driving home, I saw four young men engaged in what appeared to be an intense conversation in a not-so-nice section of town. Living in Baltimore as I proudly do, having to drive through not-so-nice sections of town is par for the course. That does not mean that Baltimore is not a beautiful and prosperous city - far from it. Often called a "City of Neighborhoods", the city is laid out such that rich and poor often live within blocks of each other. I find that fact enriching; isolation and ignorance breed contempt. If you do not know your neighbors, how can you empathize with them? That's not to say that there aren't well-to-do neighborhoods in Baltimore that work very hard to keep those less-fortunate as far away as possible. I can site a number of neighborhoods who've hired private security to perpetuate a feeling of "safety". More on that some other time (maybe).
Back to my story. Three of the four young men were hooded and surrounding the fourth, who looked visibly frightened. It seems that they were robbing him and threatening violence if he resisted. The poor kid was pushed to the ground. He then got up, took off his coat, and then handed it to one of his attackers. I didn't see what happened next, because I drove off when the light changed. I dialed 911 and gave a description of the muggers and the location of the crime. "Don't snitch"? Fuck that.
Why didn't I do more? Why didn't I get out of the car, get the kid's stuff back then take him home? Honestly, because I was afraid of what might happen to me. I am not afraid to get into a fight. I've been in enough in my lifetime to know what to expect. These days however, kids bring guns to fight, so I'd be at a competitive disadvantage, having only brought fists to the fight. I don't watch enough TV to think I could disarm someone wielding a gun. Not even The Shield could pull that off. I have young children. They didn't ask to be given life, so I shouldn't play around with mine when they need me most.
I felt really sorry for the kid. I felt sorry for him not because he was losing his possessions, but because he was genuinely frightened. I've been mugged in a violent way before. I know what it's like to feel powerless and to not know what's going to happen to you next. That feeling is as basic as breathing. Either you try to get away at all costs, or you fight as though you know you are about to die. The victim didn't appear to be at that stage yet, but I could tell he wasn't far. He had gotten past the paralyzed phase and had moved into the phase where he accepted that he was in fact going to lose his possessions. At this point, you begin to "bargain" to see what your muggers are going to let you walk/run away with. It is also at this point that your mugger(s) will decide whether or not to use violence. Since the muggers didn't immediately descend on the kid and beat him down, that means that they were willing to take the kid's stuff and walk away if he'd just given it up. A simple transaction. Since the victim was resisting, the muggers decided that it was worth increasing the pressure to see how far the kid would go before relenting. The muggers didn't start beating the kid after he resisted a little, so it was obvious that they didn't want to take the exchange too far.
I have no idea how the scene resolved. I left my name and number with the police, but never received a call. I hope the kid made it home in one piece.