Wednesday, April 3, 2013

When have we "had enough"?

The concept of “having enough” can be applied to almost every topic. It is the idea of what is the breaking point of being subjected to a particular stimulus, and deciding that the stimulus must end. It can be applied to athletics, when an athlete either quits a workout because they can take no more pain, a relationship, work, etc. This particular post deals with crime in the bay area, in a particularly low crime area.

This past weekend, I went out and had Korean BBQ at Sahn Maru (delicious by the way) on Telegraph in Oakland, and then headed over to the Graduate for drinks. While I was out, my roommate “Dave” had stayed in, and said that the apartment had been cased-two people had walked down the hallway outside the apartment several times looking in the windows, had knocked on the door in a manner that made it impossible to see who they were-standing far from the peephole and reaching to knock. After my roommate made a fair amount of noise, the “inquiring” individuals left.  Dave let me know the next morning, said he had a taser, and he put it by the front door. I took out my baseball bat, and put it next to the taser. This is not the first incidence we have had in the apartment complex; within a month of us moving into the building, criminals somehow got into the parking garage and broke into cars.

I currently live in Oakland. For people unfamiliar with the Bay Area, they immediately assume that Oakland is a high crime city-and they would be right, but only about certain areas. Like any major city, there are “safe” areas, and higher crime areas. Where I live is “supposed” to be safe-near another town called Piedmont, a wealthy local city that has great public schools and a very low crime rate. However, crime has been creeping into the area that I live-the border between Oakland and Piedmont. See these stories: Home invasionsIncrease in robberies. I acknowledge, that in comparison to other areas, Piedmont is super safe. 

In response to crimes, how does a community react? The city of Piedmont held a town hall meeting with the police department, calling for more officers, and potentially a license plate scanner at various entrances to the city to record who is entering and leaving the city. Having more officers will be a definite deterrent, and a license plate reader might do something, but what do you do when the people who are supposed to protect you can’t?

Dave and my response was to put out some items that we could use as a deterrent, hoping that holding a taser and/or baseball bat will cause unwelcome people to think twice about entering our apartment. I think subconsciously, we held the idea that if the police were unable to defend us, we must. But what if these deterrents don't stop an intruder? Do we go buy guns and train to use them? That thought has passed through my mind many times. Obviously, a gun provides a greater deterrent than a baseball bat and taser. 

These are, however, reactive, and not preventative measures. These measures don’t stop someone from trying to break into a home/car/commit some other crime. They only provide a manner of deterrence once an attempt at a criminal activity has started, and provide statistics for people to argue over.

So the question is when have we had “enough” to do something? What is that something? Does the action need to be drastic and severe? Or is there some other method of prevention that can be taken?

There is no easy answer to those questions. Everyone’s baseline of what is an acceptable amount of crime is different. People are willing to put up with different amounts of annoyance before they deal with an issue. A homeless person nagging you on a street corner for money is an annoyance most ignore, and near impossible to stop. A broken car window is a frustration that means you were lucky enough not to be there when the criminal decided he/she wanted what was on the inside, and hopefully you had nothing taken. To stop a car from being broken into, you can label your car as having a car alarm, but again, this is a reactive measure-it does not stop a criminal from breaking your window, just alerts others that a crime has occurred. A home invasion is a serious risk, but significantly rarer. Stopping a home invasion, once started, usually involves brandishing/using a weapon. The list of crimes that occur on a regular basis in the bay area could continue on, but hopefully you get the point. As the risk for harm goes up, the greater the likelihood that an individual will decide that he/she has had enough.

The more annoyance a community is willing to put up with, the more crime will occur. As crime rates go up, the baseline acceptance of what is acceptable must go down, and the willingness of the community to act must increase sharply. If a community does not act, then incidences will only increase.

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