Part of my work for the California Cities Violence Prevention Network and the National Forum on Violence is to visit those cities engaged in the work of launching a comprehensive violence prevention strategy, a strategy blending prevention, such as family support, intervention, such as mentoring or drop out prevention, enforcement and reentry (work with individuals returning from prison), in short prevention of violence and helping build healthy communities that don’t produce violence.
This means, of necessity, on-site meetings with mayors, police chiefs and leaders in the public health, education, employment areas – to name a few. In addition, it always means getting close to the streets, visiting youth workers on the streets during high crime hours, the faith community holding vigils, the police patrolling crime “hot spots.”
In this situation, about four years ago, I joined a veteran Sacramento police officer on a “ride-along,” I’m joining him, here, on his first shift early one morning.
“This is our worst area.
You don’t want to patrol here unless you’re young…
looking for action, the real cop work.
I did it for years; just couldn’t keep up.
Lost a step, many steps;
but in a pinch I come back.
In a funny way I miss it.”
Gutted houses; pot holes; graffiti, and
a market, sort of. Open?
Two men sit on a curb passing a bag between them,
chugging from it.
The cop car elicits no reaction:
could be a passing camel, or a tank.
“My God, there’s Gladys! After all these years.
A good night, Gladys?”
“No, but it’s money. I only had one.
He kept me till now. Not bad. Mostly slept.”
“Gladys: Still? Why?”
“Got babies to feed.”
“Gladys, your ‘babies’ days are over.”
“No way. They keep coming back:
My gran’ kids; then their kids’ kids.
Lot’s of cryin,’ mouths to feed.
“So am I, but I’ve got a car.
“My hoppin’ in days is gone.
Just do tricks when I get called.
But you could take me to my granddaughter’s house.
Won’t spoil the city’s car much.”
She gets in the back,
separated from the guns and computer
by thick wire mesh.
“Gladys, you’re too old for this.”
“You are too. But I tole you,
‘I got babies.’
Ain’t you got babies?”