Maybe I’m just naive or out of touch with reality, but I find the crime statistics of our society baffling. I know there’s more and more poverty out there, more people forced to “do without” every day. But at what point do people start thinking it’s OK to harm others and/or steal their possessions? How many of us would do that if faced with a missed paycheck or a few too many late fees on our electric bill? I should hope it wouldn’t be something so minor that would cause us to break into someone else’s home and take their electronics, jewelry or other valuables. Or to hold a gun to someone’s head in the street and demand everything they have on hand.
I know I’ve relocated to a high-crime area, but even back in Michigan, the rural area around my home is now being targeted by home invaders. This is an area where I could never imagine such a thing happening. I spent every moment of my young life in my mother’s home in the country, and even though she always diligently locked the door, and even though I was constantly paranoid about rapists and murderers coming in the night, it was never a reality. I never actually expected to hear about break-ins or shootings. Or at least I was never prepared enough not to be shocked at hearing reports now.
The daily news feeds from Memphis and the surrounding area are riddled with horrifying stories. From a little girl’s wheelchair being stolen from her driveway to a couple being tied up and tortured in their home to break-ins on every block. Not that they’re unheard of in my neighborhood, but being in the ‘burbs makes you feel like you have a cushion. But now our community is being targeted, and multiple homes have been burglarized recently. It’s so frightening. My hope is that the tenants are not home when it happens – if nothing else, I hope there are no lives lost.
But how do people get to the point where they think that someone else’s belongings are just as much theirs? That it’s OK to jimmy a lock or shatter a window to get at anything and everything they can find. A coworker’s home was broken into just before Thanksgiving. They stole their laptops, video camera, his wife’s engagement ring and other assorted items. Just before the holiday. Just because the car had been gone a few days. They don’t exactly live in a great part of town, but it really isn’t that bad, and I’m sure they thought they were pretty safe. It’s just so sad to hear about that, even if they’re coping and getting some insurance money. Why is the world so screwed up?
I can say without a moment’s hesitation that I would never steal or murder. (I guess there are multiple gray areas with stealing, like is it OK to walk out of the grocery store with a head of garlic in your pocket? Is that the same as taking someone’s computer? But you know what I mean.) I would never stand outside someone’s empty house and think, They’re so rich—how much are they really going to miss that plasma TV? Maybe the people standing out there have never had a single nice thing, or even a single thing that meant a lot to them regardless of monetary worth, but if they have, how can they not even for a second put themselves in the shoes of the victims? How can they not consider how it will feel to come home to a busted deadbolt, a home that now feels unsafe and soiled, missing belongings, tearful children, the difficulties of dealing with insurance companies, the possibility of having no coverage for what’s been lost, the hurt of being a victim, the fear that is now sure to play at the fringes of their minds? I have lived with paranoia for years, not because I was victimized but because that’s how my brain works. I can’t imagine what it would be like with a precedent or a reason.
If any of you out there have ever even considered harming someone else or stealing, I don’t know how you look at yourself in the mirror. And for the rest of you (the vast majority) who would never, could never do that to another person, I applaud your mutual incredulity. And I hope that if any of us is ever in a situation to stop something like this from happening to someone—anyone—that we would do whatever we could to help. I know I would.