Your Untold Crime Stories
by Carol Wheeler
People assume that big city crime is controlled by "the authorities," but that's not necessarily how New York works. What happened with Louise is a case in point.
Louise was the new girl at my office, fresh from Northwestern U. No sooner had she moved into the apartment it had taken her weeks to find when her roommate, a Jewish editor at Vibe magazine, said something so nice about the Nation of Islam it got him declared a "traitor" by the head honcho of the Jewish Defense Organization, Mordecai Levy. Mordecai started giving out Louise's new address on TV, and when fellow militants called the JDO they heard a recorded message suggesting that they show up at her place and make their displeasure known.
Louise was terrified. Her editor roommate was being put up at a hotel by his corporate employer, but Louise's company offered no comparable protection. So she called her father, a federal judge, in Memphis. His first idea? "Ah'm sure your neighbors will help out, Louise, honey." (Thanks, Daddy.) His second idea struck us all as a bit more street-smart: Within an hour, an FBI agent appeared at our office.
Kendrick the Fed was a beefy if personable guy with a lethal-looking belt pack. After he debriefed Louise we all waited with bated breath for his plan of attack. Police escort? Armed guards? Dragnet?
"You'll have to move," he told her.
Move? ...Meaning, find another affordable apartment? In Manhattan? Maybe if Mordecai burns down the building.
Once the FBI proved useless, Louise's office mates rallied 'round. As I was the oldest and best-housed I put her up for the night. Louise asked the local cops to accompany her when she went home for her toothbrush, but that, they said, is not something they do, so my large-size son, Nick, volunteered. Later, at my place, we drank and giggled into the night to keep our spirits up, but two branches of law enforcement had failed us and things did not look good.
But the next afternoon my friend and neighbor Pat overheard me telling the story. "Mordecai Levy?" she said. "I defended Mordecai a few years ago on a charge of attempted murder." Although she went on to report that they found "a virtual arsenal in his apartment," a fact that would have scared Louise silly, I was delighted. Suddenly we had a connection, an "in" with the JDO. Better yet, working in Pat's fiancé's office was a disbarred lawyer who had once shared accommodations with Mordecai on Riker's Island. (They were the only two prisoners who ate kosher.)
Two days later, the ex-lawyer rang up his former cell mate and explained: The address you're giving out? It belongs to a girl who is innocent; she's not even Jewish so please stop.
No problem, promised Mordecai. Case closed.
So, with no help from "the authorities" Louise got off the JDO's target list and out of apartment-hunting hell. All it took was a co-worker's neighbor's fiancé's ex-jailbird office-mate's phone-call. Now her only worry is the exhibitionist on the roof next door. The police told her they don't do that, either but, this being New York, odds are one of us knows somebody who knows somebody whose cousin roomed with him in film school.
WHO IS: Carol Wheeler is the director of communications at Catalyst www.catalystwomen.org as well as a freelance writer.
(1) The Jewish Defense Organization
The JDO is a militant pro-Jewish group who's motto is "DEATH TO NAZI SCUM!!!"
A look at what police do and don't do according to the entertainment industry
(3) Jewish Bulletin of Northern California
It isn't easy to order kosher in prison
by Diane Zacher
Living in Littleton, Colorado, site of the Columbine H.S. massacre, our family witnessed the horror of April 20th at close range. Now, as our community searches for ways to prevent more Columbines, some corrective proposals present us with horrors of another kind. One the idea of suing parents of run-amok teens frightens me, because it's so completely unrealistic to hold parents responsible for teen lawlessness. My husband and I know this from experience.
Our daughter seemed to change from the moment she crossed the high school's threshold. She challenged every rule, attended classes sporadically and, occasionally, didn't even come home at night. Like so many parents, we thought we had equipped our children during their formative years with armor to protect them from outside and inside influences armor forged by our best intentions, high standards and good examples.
It was a delusion.
Restrictions. Rewards. Tutoring. Counseling. To reverse our daughter's trajectory, my husband and I tried everything, no matter how agonizing, costly or time-consuming. Nothing helped.
As our daughter struggled, her close childhood friend I'll call her Jennifer remained level-headed and content. She made honor roll, participated in sports and kept curfew. Both Jennifer and our daughter were raised in loving families and taught the same rules. My husband and I kept asking ourselves why Jennifer was handling adolescence so well, while our daughter had become a stranger to us. We blamed ourselves for the difference.
But last August, after three difficult years, our daughter did a 180. She enrolled in college, began talking about the future, started "hanging" with achievers instead of enablers.
Jennifer, meanwhile, was arrested. Newspaper accounts indicate that she and her boyfriend began a fire hoping to collect on an insurance policy. One person died in the blaze. A lifetime of regret and consequences will follow Jennifer because of a very stupid, tragic decision one she made in direct opposition to the values she was raised with.
Face it: Teens are individuals with free will. Like adults, teenagers may make poor or conscientious choices for any number of reasons that have nothing to do with the way they were parented. One twin sister has unprotected sex and the other abstains. The son of a full-time mother slides behind the steering wheel after a few drinks, but his latchkey friend walks home. A child with over-indulgent parents becomes a valedictorian, while a classmate refuses to attend school even for a Porsche.
Why? We don't know for sure. And until we do, censuring families makes as much sense as flogging the friends of teen delinquents. That's the truth, uncomfortable as it is. And no lawsuit can change it.
WHO IS: Diane Zacher is looking forward to the day when her two daughters have teen children so that she can tell her grandchildren about the parental-trauma-inducing things thattheirparents did when they were teens.
Juvenile Violence Special Report
Excellent collection of links to Columbine High School and school violence from the Washington Post. See especially the Denver Post's coverage and National Center for Education Statistics.
(2) Denver Rocky Mountain News
Victim's parents sue killer's parents
(3) SHINE Seeking Harmony in Neighborhoods Everyday is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting non-violence in schools.
(4) Why Kids Fight Their Pit Bulls A Conversation in the Hood
YO!(Youth Outlook) The World Through Young People's Eyes
See Spot. See Spot Killed.
by Sargeant Steve Brownstein
of the Chicago Police Department
I have been a Chicago Police Officer for over 13 years, most of it patrolling in high crime areas. Over the last decade, an increasing number of gang members nationwide have turned to dog fighting as a preferred form of gambling and recreational activity. Although dog fighting is a felony here in in Illinois, it is done with disturbing frequency. This practice is not only cruel to dogs, it's harmful for children. Recently, when I spoke before a group of fifth and sixth graders and asked how many children had witnessed dog fights, every hand in the room went up.
The dog fighting business is a bloody, gruesome spectacle in which one animal tears the other apart. When dogs lose fights, owners who are angry about losing money on them often throw their animals into garbage dumps or put them into vacant apartments to die slow, agonizing deaths from infection, starvation, or dehydration. I have recovered many such dogs, still alive, in varying states of mutilation.
I have seen a Rottweiler mix breed with the skin of her face torn off; a pit bull puppy whose stomach was ripped open, a shepherd mix breed whose penis was shreds. I have also seen corpses of dogs who were burned alive for losing fights.
Children see these things, too, and the danger is that they will emulate the violence around them. I have stopped children trying to make dogs fight, and I know of a group that swung a puppy around by a rope, snapping its neck. One fifth grader, describing to me in graphic detail a pit bull fight to which his uncle took him, told me that when the losing dog urinated and defecated upon itself before it died, he was the only one in the crowd who did not explode with laughter.
To grow up sane and self-respecting, children need to learn to treat other creatures animals or human with decency, compassion and humanity. This should be taught in school programs, but to be effective, the lessons have to be manifest on the streets.
Because humane society investigators do not have full law enforcement powers, it is unrealistic to expect that they can stop this cruelty unaided. Joint efforts must be made with police officers specifically trained and assigned to stop animal abuse.
Some ask, with all the problems we face, what matters the fate of dogs? But to me, the question is, what kind of society do we become if our children lose their humanity?
WHO IS: Sgt. Steve Brownstein is assigned to a Chicago police detail whose responsibilities include animal abuse investigations.
(1) Rescued Pit Fighters
(2) The Cooperative Learning Center at the University of Minesota
(3) Rescued Pit Fighters Resource for Law Enforcement and Humane Shelter Investigators
(4) Why Kids Fight Their Pit Bulls A Conversation in the Hood
YO!(Youth Outlook) The World Through Young People's Eyes
(5) Why the Cocks Fight: Dominicans, Haitians and the Struggle for Hispaniola
by Janet Bode
Larry King had the wrong word for me: "This is the victim," he said, introducing me to his then-girlfriend. He did it because while on a routine business trip, a stranger came into my hotel room, held a gun to my head and said, "Lie down or I'll kill you."
My attacker's M.O. was to hang out in the lobbies of upscale hotels and wait for lone women to check in. In those days, when desk clerks handed you your room key they'd announce your room number out loud. This guy would dial that number on the house phone, and say that the front desk was sending up a worker to repair a leak.
A gun at your head speeds up your brain. Twenty years earlier a gang of teenagers that threatened me with death had settled on raping me. Remembering what it took to reclaim my life after that first crime, I knew I couldn't do it again. When talk didn't dissuade this assailant, I jumped up and pushed against his chest, screaming and screaming. I envisioned my brain splattering against the wall. But...? Instead of pulling the trigger, he pistol-whipped me, took my money and ran.
When I told my story to the hotel's director of security, he saw me as the problem. He was reluctant to act. I had to insist that he document my injuries and call the police. When they arrived, the detective said, "There've been similar incidences in other hotels along the strip at LAX." So my hotel knew about the situation and was deliberately ignoring it. When I asked management to pay my medical bills, they refused. Finally, I sued to get their attention.
Then I saw an article in the New York Times: With more businesswomen traveling alone, it said, hotels are putting flowers on the bedspreads. When the New York Times published my response, it caused a minor media frenzy. That's how I met Larry King.
King paired me with the President of the Hotel and Motel Association to get "both sides" of the issue. On King's show, Mr. Hotel admitted no responsibility, but afterwards he said to me: "Ms. Bode. We hear you. And we are going to make changes."
And they did. When checking in, you still can't turn off your street smarts. But in quality hotels nationwide, security training and procedures are much improved. So, I can't accept "victim" as my label. "Survivor?" Not quite good enough. As I once heard Marianne Faithful say, "people call me a survivor; but I think I did a lot better than that!" I made travel safer for women men, too and I came out of a nightmare stronger. What's the label for one who triumphs?
WHO IS: Janet Bode is the author of nonfiction books with socially conscious themes for young adults: "Death Is Hard to Live With," "Voices of Rape" and "The Colors of Freedom" (1999), a book addressed to teenage immigrants.
(1) Women in Transition
(2) Travel On: Hotel Safety Strategies