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I was extremely disturbed by the article “Just for Kicks” (District Line, 12/29/06). Not only because of my personal safety concerns (I walk the U Street corridor frequently for work during the day) but also because of the message the apparent police apathy is sending to youth and adults alike. First, if police don’t care to follow through on these atrocious acts of malevolence—chucking a brick at someone’s head and stomping on their face—what will they follow up on? Like a toddler intentionally misbehaving, the kids who are throwing bricks must wonder, How far do I have to go before someone actually cares about me and what I’m doing? or, less optimistically, How far can I go before I’m arrested? Or the worst-case scenario: If I don’t use a gun it doesn’t count. Secondly, to adults, the police apathy sends a similar message—we don’t care about this neighborhood or the well-being of its residents, and you don’t have to care either. We don’t take crimes seriously. Officers, do you take hate crimes seriously? Because that’s how it reads to me—an act intentionally committed to do bodily harm because of a person’s race, ethnicity, gender, religion, or culture—whether a gun is used or not.
I, too, was randomly assaulted by a group of young teens. The attack occurred in November in Silver Spring, when I was walking home during evening rush hour. As I passed a group of teen boys, the last one sucker-punched me. Fortunately, my heavy winter coat absorbed much of his blow, and I was not hurt. After a short, tense verbal standoff, the kids went their way, and I went mine. The good news is that I was able to track them to their school, and their principal assured me they would be punished.
Until such time as all D.C.-area parents actually raise their kids to be civilized human beings and not junior criminals headed for prison or an early grave, the rest of us need to treat any group of teens as potential attackers. That means observing who is coming toward you and crossing the street or otherwise getting far enough away from them so that they cannot harm you. Don’t let liberal guilt interfere with your own personal safety; if you hurt the kids’ feelings, that’s too damn bad. Carrying pepper spray (in your hand, not in your pocket or purse) is also a good idea.
As for feeling guilty about being attacked as a gentrifier, that is garbage. A neighborhood changes all the time, but no one group ever owns it. In fact, a kid who physically attacks someone has forfeited any right to consider himself welcome anywhere except in juvenile court. Lastly, prosecutors and judges need to understand that if they do not punish these kids, ultimately, we will.
I must agree, at least to some degree, with one of the traffic laws ridiculed in your article “Made to Be Broken” (12/29). While it is clear that keeping literally 500 feet away from fire trucks is “not logical,” as driving instructor Carrie Dicks put it, having some safety bubble around these vehicles is necessary. I’ll cite a scene I witnessed recently: At Bradley Boulevard and Seven Locks Road in Bethesda (not in the District, but similar rules apply), there was a major accident during the morning rush one recent day. A fire truck was parked in the intersection, blocking cars in one lane from getting onto Bradley but protecting the area where paramedics and firefighters were working. Blatantly and dangerously disobeying the 500-foot rule, drivers were going around the engine—into oncoming traffic—and even making right turns around the fire truck. These drivers could not see what I could: several paramedics and firefighters putting a victim of the crash onto a backboard in the road behind the truck. These drivers could have easily run over a firefighter and made the crash much worse than it already was. While it may not be possible for cars to stay 500 feet from fire equipment, we must use common sense around emergency vehicles for the safety of people who work to save lives everyday. After all, they may be coming to help us when we’re in an accident, and what would you want then?
In last week’s theater-in-review essay (“Arch History,” 12/29/06), theater critic Trey Graham wrote that Longacre Lea founder Kathleen Akerley “has been known to wonder whether there aren’t too many little companies pretending to professional-theater status hereabouts and whether a little supply-and-demand consolidation might not be in order.” Akerley was in fact concerned that there’s a surfeit of local theater produced by companies of all sizes.