Feeling Safe

It was about 6 am, still dark and there I was skulking on a street corner, hunched over by an auto.  A squad car snaked its way down the avenue with its siren off but its red lights flaring. It slowed down when the officer who drove it spotted me at the curb. I could feel his eyes on me for a long moment. I was wearing a dark jacket and pants. He kept going when he spotted my two fluffy dogs- they were engaged in their morning duty. I wondered whether he’d initially thought he’d finally caught the Park Slope groper. He hadn’t. It was me. For a moment, maybe it was the early hour, I thought, well, maybe I am the guilty party. As I said it was just for a moment, but I didn’t like being looked at in that manner at all.

The next morning, I was off from dog duty, and was making my way toward the park for an early run. It was again dark as night. As I walked toward the corner, I saw about eight policemen standing near a man who could easily be taken for the Park Slope groper. I made eye contact with one of the officers and quickly went on my way. It took me a moment to shake off the feeling I had. Was that the groper they surrounded or someone who fit the profile? There are a lot of men in my neighborhood that fit the profile of the groper. That got me to thinking, why was this gentleman actually stopped? Was he on his way to work? My imagination soared. Was he a cook, or was he one of those bicycle delivery guys who risk their lives getting breakfast for the rest of us who barely manage getting ourselves a cup of coffee- the rest of us who don’t look like the artist rendition of the groper.

When I first heard of the assaults in this very quiet neighborhood I was just as frightened as everyone else. I began to feel safer when I saw the added patrol cars driving up and down the blocks- making U turns at the intersections. Then suddenly, I realized that I hadn’t been aware of police presence before because, well, how do I put this diplomatically? There was none. I can argue that since it was a “safe” neighborhood, we didn’t need it. Now it is a given there will be men patrolling on their bicycles or a couple of Guardian Angels will be standing at the corner of the dog park on any given day.

I guess the groper is not going to be wearing a tee shirt that says, “Hello, it’s me!” He will look like the countless other assailants who go around under the guise of normal. He will probably look like me, wearing a dark jacket and pants and he’ll look kind of busy and no one would ever have thought that they were in danger around him. That’s the problem- most criminals don’t look the part. Maybe, like me, they get up in the morning, walk their dogs, drink a cup of coffee and go to work. The difference is that they do a little illegal activity and go about their day, no one the wiser. I do hope if the gentleman that was picked up the other morning is truly innocent that he got to go home and isn’t being held because he “looked the part.” I really can’t wait for this to be over.

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