Two days ago my post showcased the abundance of diversity and inclusion in my trendy Atlanta community. It is a struggle to imagine any place in America that offers a bigger welcome to people of every description, income, and sexual orientation.
But there is a downside. It is a city neighborhood, with all the challenges of living in the shadow of downtown Atlanta’s towering office buildings that create its endlessly photographed skyline. There is a main drag – a through street that connects the confluence of I-75 and I-85, two miles to the west, with a major station on the Metropolitan Area Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA). It also connects us to the gang and drug traffic that takes over the daytime quiet of surrounding neighborhoods and turns our oak-canopied streets into a dangerous place to walk at night.
On April 1, 2012 an unidentified woman walked alone toward a friend’s house that is exactly one block from my own address. It was 3:30 a.m.
We all remember at least one of our elder relatives telling us “nothing good happens in the wee hours of the morning.” Some of you reading this will immediately conclude that whatever happened to this clueless woman was brought on by herself. Why, you ask, would any woman be out alone at that time of the night? I wouldn't be one of those asking that question.
The police are being extremely cagey about the facts of this case; in fact, we neighbors were left completely uninformed until yesterday, April 10, 2012, when a local TV station announced a major investigative “event” on the corner where the dog groomer’s shop with its huge stainless steel water bowl on the sidewalk for passing dogs to slake their walk-induced thirst is stationed. My dog and I pass that corner every day on our own walks.
The female owner of the popular restaurant on the opposite corner was clearly livid when she sent out an email to the neighborhood Yahoo Group asking exactly when she and her female employees who work until 2 a.m. were going to be notified of a still at-large rapist in the area. The woman had been grabbed and raped by a dread-locked man of only 5’ 6” less than 50 yards from the restaurant’s outdoor front patio. This email message was transmitted around 3:52 p.m. Tuesday.
At 4:30 p.m. another message hit the inbox. A neighbor who had been working on her back porch was suddenly startled by a small man leaping her fence to the sound of “Stop. Police.” She ran into her house, set the alarm and called 911. Five minutes later two of the police who were staked out on the corner near the scene of the crime rode into her yard – on horseback! They told her the police had a suspect in the rape surrounded, but he managed to escape through the maze of back yards and tall trees.
When my dog and I took our walk at 5:30 p.m., the corner in question was alive with police officers passing out flyers, curious neighbors gazing at the horses now back in their transport vehicle and my friend Glenda pulling her two towheaded granddaughters in a little red wagon. It looked more like a Saturday during our popular annual street festival than it did a crime investigation.
By the time I returned from the walk, our Public Safety chairman had broken through the secrecy at the Atlanta Police Department and learned that neither the woman victim nor the rapist were residents of our neighborhood – almost as if that information would set our minds at ease to some extent. They also revealed that the suspect was called Derrick.
No more information was forthcoming, in order to “avoid compromising the investigation.”
Great. In the meantime cars are broken into nearly every night. People walking down the street in broad daylight are sometimes assaulted by thugs looking to steal their smartphones. Job-seekers and/or writers who work on their laptops outside the local coffee shop that offers free wi-fi have had their computers snatched right under their flying fingertips. And the budgets for all sources of public safety continue to be slashed.
The bad guys appear to be winning.