March 23, 2013 in Washington Voices

Vandalism sheds light on crime rate

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Someone likes the light in our driveway.

 “Like” probably isn’t the right word. Someone has an insatiable desire to smack the bulb and lamp right off the metal post.

For 26 years this little light of mine has stood next to our driveway shining brightness into the dark of night. About 18 months ago trouble arrived in the form of a baseball bat.

After picking up the pieces of glass and bent metal, we chalked it up to petty hooliganism. For two weeks the light post looked bare without its lamp and our driveway stayed dark while we compiled some cash to replace it. Finally, we headed to the store and, once again, the driveway was illuminated.

 A month later the culprit returned. We again picked up the pieces of the new lamp and bulb that were strewn across the driveway and lawn and wondered why was our humble beacon hit two times in as many months and the only recipient of the beast with the bat? This time we held off replacing the light. “Maybe the idiot will forget about us,” my husband said.

Eight months passed; the light post stayed bare; the driveway remained dark. As summer turned to fall, we were sure whoever it was had forgotten about this little light of ours. Off to the store we went and, once again, the driveway was illuminated.

Five months later in March, the culprit returned. This time the defacement involved spray paint and, unfortunately, a neighbor’s truck and a mailbox met the same painted fate.

We know these types of things are petty. We also know police have more crime to handle than they have resources. What we’re witnessing, however, is the step-by-step, inch-by-inch escalation of crime where minor infractions soon turn into misdemeanors that turn into felonies and, heaven forbid, aggravated assault.

 This malicious property infraction is not only silly but also irritating and frustrating because we know, as does the criminal, that this is a crime with no consequence – which seems to be the way of many crimes. It’s been said the courts coddle too much and offer consequences too little. What I find amazing is how repeat offenders of the most heinous sort can slip through crime’s revolving door with ease.

And we wonder why law enforcement gets fed up.

A March 2 article in The Spokesman-Review (“Low police funding leaves crime victims feeling helpless”) left me feeling … well, helpless. In case you missed it, the end of the article was a shocker – the city of Spokane has the highest overall crime rate in the state and Spokane County has the highest crime rate among Washington counties. “And we’re not just tops in the state,” the article said. “We’re among the most crime-ridden cities in the nation.”

The answer to stopping crime is as elusive as the dingleberry (or dingleberries) determined to down our light. Various deterrent methods have been discussed, many of which would land us in the pokey charged with unnecessary roughness for doing something outlandish like protecting our property.

What’s a homeowner to do? Not much. We filed a report with Crime Check and suggested occasional police cruisers in the neighborhood. We could spend a lot of money on cameras and security systems that require a monthly fee or we can accept the fact that respect for another’s property has fallen by the wayside and if the light gets smashed to smithereens again, so be it.

It shouldn’t be this way, but it is. Step-by-step, inch-by-inch, Spokane residents are getting used to it.

Voices correspondent Sandra Babcock can be reached by email at Sandi30@comcast.net. Previous columns are available at spokesman.com/ columnists/

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