The New York Times has a gargantuan story by Andrew Jacobs called Newark Battles Murder and its Accomplice, Silence. It describes a scene common to many American cities, very much including our own.
It covers outdated police equipment, political patronage, and lack of opportunity in poor areas. Yet what struck us most is the universality of these kind of tales:
One night, the rookies clambered over backyard fences in pursuit of a mugger, tackled and handcuffed the suspect and marched him to the crime scene, only to have the victim snatch back his wallet, refuse to press charges and saunter away without so much as a thank you.
This cannot be simply attributed to a wildly successful "stop snitching" campaign. It was the reality that caused the slogan. Mistrust of the police now comes naturally and easily.
In the few moments it took officers to scurry down the block, the killer had vanished, leaving a man slumped in the street with a bullet in his face and bystanders who treated investigators like a band of pesky door-to-door salesmen, shrugging that they had witnessed nothing.
It really, really, really is like Iraq.
Just as the article was becoming too depressing to read, the futility too overwhelming to bother with, comes this note, tossed-in as an aside after fifty paragraphs:
Most of the killings are drug-related, and while a new citywide narcotics unit is making a dent, Newark’s reputation for having the purest heroin in the region keeps the customers coming, and the South Ward’s four highways bring them straight to the Fifth.
One reason the cops operate in isolation is because everybody has something to hide, or somebody to hide. Respect for the law has suffered because the law is now consumed with hypocrisy and trivialities -- and is complicit in creating opportunities for lawbreakers.
There is a solution to urban violence. Or rather, there is a hugely necessary first part of the solution, and it is sitting right under our noses.