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Monday, July 21, 2008

Post-CAPS conversation

Well, I ended up having a conversation with Sarah after the CAPS meeting. She saw the papers I brought home, including the crime reports for our beat over the last month, and took a look at them. She had lots of questions about words like "larceny" and the difference between assault and battery. I actually forget the difference between the two, but thanks to the little police icons, we figured out that aggravated means you assaulted or battered with a weapon, but simple means you just used your fists. I even explained counterfeiting, fraud and embezzlement.

In the end, I explained all the crimes she asked about on the Clearicons cheat sheet except prostitution. Sarah is eight years old, her parents are very protective of her, and the other day she said, "Eew, that's nasty!" at a photo of a blond pinup in a bikini, so I didn't think it would be right to break it down for her without her parents' knowledge and consent.

"It's a crime involving sex, and that's all I'm going to say about it right now because I don't know if your parents would want me to discuss it with you," I told her.

When Sarah wants to know something, she is very persistent. "So maybe you could explain it when I'm older?"

"Yes." (I appreciate intellectual curiosity and persistence.)

Shortly thereafter, two plainclothes and one uniformed officer showed up in an unmarked car and began shaking down some guys a couple of houses up. Word got around that the cops had also gone by the house on the corner and warned people that if they kept hanging around they would be arrested. (That didn't seem to make much dent, based on my recent 911 call.)

A bunch of people were staring at the police and the guys they were searching, including Sarah, but I convinced her that was not a good idea. (I was in and out of the house, so I'm not sure if they actually arrested anyone.)

She and I spent some time filling people's bike tires with my pump and sitting on the corner making things from the "puzzle pieces." (I really have to come up with a better name for them.)

Sarah told me that at her old house in Pilsen, there were so many gangs on the block that she was only allowed to play for 10 or 15 minutes at a time, even though her mom knew all the families. I asked her if she felt safer there or here and she said here. I know she gets to spend hours outside here. I just hope we can keep it that way and maybe even make it better.

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