Angry dad frustrated by routine teen crime

October 16, 1997|By MICHAEL OLESKER

DAD, the police are at my apartment."

My daughter's voice is on the telephone, 2 o'clock last Thursday afternoon.

"What do you mean?" I ask.

An idiot's question, but some terribly weak and cowardly instinct tells me: If you ask a benign question, maybe you'll be lucky enough to get a benign answer in return.

"Six police," she says.

Her voice is firm, more angry than intimidated.

She lives in South Baltimore, not far from Fort Avenue, and arrived home minutes earlier to find a teen-age kid sitting on her ++ front stoop.

"Are you waiting for someone?" she asked.

"I'm waiting for school to let out," the kid said, apparently finding this a legitimate explanation.

My daughter went inside, walked upstairs to her bedroom and looked out to the street below. The kid had a buddy. The buddy had now broken into a car, which belongs to my daughter's roommate. The kid broke the lock on the car, broke the Club off the steering wheel, and was trying to hot-rod the ignition.

In, as they say, broad daylight.

The police arrive minutes later, and are still there when my daughter telephones me.

"How old are they?" I ask.

"Teen-age," she says. "Dad, they were looking at me like, 'We're gonna get you for this.'"

I give her assurances that this is unlikely. It's the code of the street: Look tough, eyeball everybody, try to look intimidating. My daughter understands some of this. She's lived almost her whole life in the city. She moved to South Baltimore about a year ago because, while understanding various city incivilities, she still treasures this neighborhood for its mix of people, its energy and for the notion of living with real neighbors instead of merely lawns.

But she's standing inside her apartment now, and the police have taken the two suspects away, and she and her roommate still picture these two kids eyeballing them.

I call Southern District police. My daughter's an adult, she's 27, but she's still my daughter, and I want to know specifically what's going on here, so I can find out whom I should strangle.

At Southern District, they say the kids have been taken to Northern District to be booked and to meet a juvenile intake officer who will either release them to their parents' custody or hold them for a while.

I reach the arresting officer, Dave Gobin, at Northern. He's got the kids sitting a few feet from him.

"We're waiting to see the intake officer right now," Gobin says over the phone.

"And then what?"

"And then," says Gobin, "it depends what kind of prior record they have."

"Have you got their records?" I ask.

"No," says Gobin. "Wait a minute."

He turns to these two kids, and I hear him ask, "How many priors you got?"

They are, it turns out, 15 years old, so the term "priors" does not have to be explained to them.

"Four," I hear one kid say.

"Three or four," says the other.

"Not much there," Gobin says now. "They'll probably be let go to their parents."

"Well," I tell him, "I'm just a concerned father, but I wish there was something more that could be done."

"Like what?" he asks.

"Like, I'd like to come down there and wring their [bleeping] necks," I say.

"Yeah," Gobin laughs, "I know what you mean. But they don't let us do that anymore."

Their release is a no-brainer. The city doesn't have room or time for such piffle, and a juvenile officer releases the kids. They're charged with attempting to steal a car, destruction of property and possession of burglary tools.

A slight hitch: One kid's mother refuses to take him home. How to read this? Did she wish to teach her son a lesson, that she's had it with his misbehavior? Or does she not care? Is this a manifestation of general lack of interest on her part that led to the kid's troubles in the first place?

I don't know. Because they are juveniles, I can't even find out their names. We wish to protect our young people and their delicate sensibilities for as long as we can.

What I do know is this: They each live in East Baltimore, but go to school in South Baltimore. One of them has a record for possession with intent to distribute cocaine and second-degree assault. The other has no record.

"Why did he say he had priors?" I ask police spokeswoman Angelique Cook-Hayes.

"Probably because the first kid had a record, and he wanted to sound impressive, too," she says. "But, as these things go, there's not much here. That's why they were released."

There is, however, a catch.

In the moments after my daughter arrived home that day, a woman who lives across the street was getting out of her car. She had a package in her hand. She was approached by a teen-age boy who asked if he could carry her package.

"No," said the woman.

The kid kept coming toward her. The woman, feeling menaced, said, "No, I don't want any help." The kid kept coming. Now there were other voices in the air, some guys with the city, working several yards away, asking if there was any trouble.

The kid did a sudden about-face. The woman went into her house, put down her package, returned to her front door.

"I looked across the street," she said yesterday. There, in front of my daughter's apartment, was the kid who had approached her. He and a buddy were now in police custody.

"The police told me, 'They couldn't get the one car started, so they saw you pull up in a better car, and he was ready to grab yours," the woman said.

But there were no charges filed, and the incident was never considered by the juvenile intake officer when he sent the kids on their way.

And that's the routine business of the city on this day.

Pub Date: 10/16/97

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