November 9, 1995 in City

I Love The Place, But Crime Has Us Headed Off Course

By The Spokesman-Review
 
Tags:column

To quote Jack Nicholson as the Joker in the first “Batman” movie: “This town needs an enema!”

Sorry, but I knew Spokane was in serious trouble even before some low-life purse-snatcher mugged my dear mother.

The violence of the last 10 months - from Felicia Reese’s murder late last December to Tuesday’s gang-related killing of a young North Side couple - has been a bloody reminder that we no longer live in Leave it to Beaverland.

Nineteen bodies have piled up this year, tying the city’s all-time murder total with two months to go. Violent crime has been proclaimed a “growth industry” by Spokane Police Chief Terry Mangan.

Youth gangs are a huge problem the mayor and council are desperately trying to solve.

Migrating to the Spokane Valley once was considered a peaceful alternative to living in the more crime-ridden city.

Think again. “We have more people coming (to the Valley) with the idea that this is an easy place to commit crime and get away with it,” Spokane County sheriff’s Sgt. Gary Smith told a reporter last month.

Drugs and more drugs - to nobody’s surprise - are at the core of most of our social ills.

Don’t misunderstand, I still love Spokane. This is, after all, the place I was born, grew up, schooled, married, had kids and settled down.

I’m fond of our parochial attitudes, our stubborn reluctance to change and especially our big-hearted residents who practically break their necks to help someone in trouble.

Last June, I wrote how two brutes took a money jar being collected for a baby’s cancer fund. Within a few days, more than $5,000 in donations poured into a trust fund for the little girl’s care.

A similar outpouring is going to Rob and Jill Schliebe, who lost their four sons in a terrible fire.

But what Spokane needs most of all is more cops, tougher judges, longer sentences and roomier prisons to keep the rats from overrunning the rest of us.

What happened to members of my family the other afternoon makes me wonder if we can win this war.

During the span of a few hours:

I took my daughter to the Nordstrom cafeteria and encountered a profane lunatic who vowed to kill everyone in his sight. “I’ve got a .45 and I’ll blow ‘em all away,” the middle-aged man screamed, peppering his speech with the F-word.

After several uncomfortable minutes, the man disappeared down the escalator, leaving a trail of violent vulgarities in his wake.

My son left work to catch a bus home. He watched a street gangster viciously beat a wino a few feet from the new bus station’s front doors.

The thug stomped the man’s chest and kicked his head. “It went on about three minutes before any guards showed up to stop it,” my son said. “I was a little scared somebody might pull a gun and start shooting.”

My mom was assaulted in the Lincoln Heights Shopping Center. “He wasn’t gonna get my purse,” she told me with defiance after the detective took photographs of her scrapes and bruises.

She was heading into the Payless Drug Store. An 18-year-old with a chubby, innocent face asked her for the time.

My mom’s a sweetheart who is friendly to everyone. Getting attacked in broad daylight never crossed her mind.

The punk grabbed her purse and yanked. My mother toppled hard onto the pavement. She held on, though, hollering for help as this poor excuse for a human dragged her several feet.

He finally gave up and ran, maybe realizing the fish he’d hooked had way too much fight.

My mom is handling her attack well, wearing her battle scars with pride. We laugh about rigging her purse with explosives.

There is an edge to our humor. We both know how lucky she was.

I’m scared sick about where my city is headed.

, DataTimes


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