Sunday, February 06, 2005

Crime Scene

Last weekend the police were at my house. I have to say that I am really impressed at how quickly they responded. You see, when we got up Saturday morning, we found that someone had dumped some sort of air compressor in our front yard. Because jury duty paranoia makes me think that everything is stolen and that anyone toothless is a meth addict who steals to feed his habit (I always knew grandma looked shifty!), I figured that it was probably stolen. I called the non-emergency line and was told that an officer would be dispatched. He got here well within an hour (probably closer to a half hour), which I think is pretty quick, considering no one was being maimed, murdered or otherwise mistreated. Although he arrived without a tank, SWAT team and sans siren, I was able to find it in my heart to forgive him, because he was very nice. His assessment was that the item was definitely stolen and had been dumped in our yard by the thief (or perp as I like to call them now that I have a month of criminal justice experience).

It seems like there is a lot of that in my neighborhood these days. My car was broken into about this time last year, and my neighbor's house was recently broken into. His thieves even stopped to have snack in his kitchen. From what I understand, a lot of these crimes are meth related. I had read and heard a lot about Portland's meth problem, but it's not until I started my recent tenure as Clerk of Grand Jury I that I realized how pervasive it is. I would estimate that about 80% of what we hear involves at least some mention of methamphetamines (and sometimes crack, but usually meth). I also learned that just as Troutdale is the Gateway to the Gorge, S.E. 82nd Avenue is the Gateway to Meth Country. If I've learned anything at jury duty, however, it's that meth makes people crazy. Well, that and that a meth user's teeth can make the Brits look like Nobel prize winners in the advancement of oral hygiene.

So, GJI paranoia aside, chances are the stolen compressor we hosted has some sort of meth connection. If there is one thing that I regret, however, it is that my Grand Juror status played too small a role in the investigation of this crime. It should have gone down a little more like this...

A police car comes tearing down the street, sirens wailing. The tires screech to a halt in front of my driveway. The officer gets out to survey the perimeter and easily finds the crime scene, because that section of the yard has already been cordoned off with yellow tape.

My mom opens front door and goes out to greet the officer. I put down my donut and stick my squirt gun in the front of my skirt and grab my badge. Ok, technically it is not so much a badge as a sheet protector holding a piece of paper emblazoned with my picture, name, "Grand Jury I" and the dates of my service, but I am sure it was meant to do more than protect me from having to go through court house security every time I enter the building. Really, badge, temporary I.D., it's all the same. Either way, the law is my life.

As she is explaining what happened, I walk out, flash my badge and say "Clerk Martina, GJ I. I'll take it from here. What have we got here? A possible Burg I? Rob II? Have you called for backup yet to make sure the perp isn't still somewhere in the vicinity?"

He says, "Uh, no." You can tell he has attitude. I sigh dramatically and mutter something under my breath about damn cops.

The officer gives me a look of pure disdain. It's okay, though. Everyone who's ever seen "T.J. Hooker" knows local law enforcement doesn't like special services busting in on their beat. I tell him, "Look, man. We can do this hard or we can do it easy, but I'll tell you right now, the D.A.'s not going to be happy if we have to do it hard. It's my job to keep scum like this off the streets. If you want to help, help, but if you don't like it, step aside. And don't think I won't have your ass supeonaed when this goes before the Grand Jury. I know Schrunk, I can make it happen. Now back off and get me a donut, so I can think!" Reluctantly, the officer relents and I take charge of my crime scene...

Seriously, though, the officer who came out to our house could not have been nicer or more professional. Over the course of the past month, I've really come to gain a lot of respect for what it is that law enforcement in my city does. The District Attorneys have, for the most part, impressed me as well. All of these people do an incredible job for what often works out to be little reward (beyond perhaps power or the satisfaction of doing something good for their community). They endanger their own safety to be rewarded with hostile witnesses and the dreaded lame brain rent-a-cops

As evidenced by my donut jokes, I hate to stereotype, but it just seems to me that the percentage of dorks among store security guards, loss prevention people and bouncers is awfully high. Every time one testifies, I have to think of the old In Living Color skits with Jim Carey as convenience store security lisping "Woodchuck to Grey Squirrel" over his walkie talkie. I'm sure there are some who are nice, but most just come off as blow hards.

Anyway, rent-a-cops aside there are a lot of really great people out there working for the betterment of our communities. My town is great in many ways, but has a lot of others where it could use some betterment. The meth problem on the East side (as opposed to N. and S.W., which are crack and heroine country respectively) is out of countrol. That shit makes people crazy. It also contributes to a lot of the theft and crime in this city. Hopefully we'll be able to do something about it. I know I'm thinking a lot about the subject these days, but more about that later.

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