rethinking justice and taking responsibility for our communities health and wellbeing as a whole
I discovered my truck, back windows popped out and broken into a thousand pea sized glass pieces, late the night following Christmas on a one way in downtown DC.
It seemed inevitable, part of the price to pay for living in the city. Car break ins are common enough in DC. Drive around the right block, on a particular early morning, and piles of broken window glass will scatter about the road like rain puddles.
The crime statistics say that only one car burglary has been reported on that side of the block in the last two years. In the last year, crime stats for the city report only 492 thefts from cars. I’ve seen at least a dozen break-ins on that street in the last six months. People in my neighborhood know that spot is ripe for break-ins and avoid it.
This means DC is either failing to log these nonviolent crimes or the owners of these robbed cars made the same decision I did and did not call the police or file a police report.
A lot was stolen from my car, a huge box of Goodwill clothes, a very old and broken bike, bear spray and a six year old Bluetooth speaker. All in all, the person who wormed through my back cab pickup windows and tossed my car didn’t make away with anything of significant value.
I on the other hand am footing the bill of fixing multiple windows and replacing the few items I used – totaling close to $800. I didn’t call the police because I knew they’d be incapable of delivering justice or righting the situation.
For one, we know that police departments are understaffed and over worked right now, so a call or report would have likely been lost in the shuffle. But even if they’d pursued an investigation the likely hood of solving the case was low. AND even if they found the person who robbed my truck, they would have been thrown in jail and entered the court system, costing me and other tax payers more money.
I doubt the person who took old clothes, a broken bike and picked the most beat up car on the block to rob was swimming in a ton of money.
The current legal system does not offer me what I needed or wanted in this situation: enough money to fix my car from the person that broke it. I don’t even have grand aspirations of an apology.
When I think more deeply about who robbed my truck, I think about gentrification and the violence of “progress” in predominantly Black cities like DC as prices soar and original Black communities are replaced by elites of all races, but mostly white people.
What is my price to pay for the impact of me living as a white women in a Black city as an outsider? In some ways, did I owe whoever was hard enough up on money to rob my truck? What does social accountability look like for me?
As we embark on a new year of 2022, I encourage all of us to consider what justice means to us. Is it punishment or accountability? Is it an emotional vindictive crusade for our ego or a journey to actually morally right a wrong? How are those two different?
I encourage all of us to look at what conditions and pressures make fertile ground for crime and how all of us as a society are responsible for giving birth to those situations. Crime is often looked at as an individual’s responsibility. But what if we addressed it as a community problem we all share responsibility in solving?