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Dark California Part 2 : Crime on My Street

Last week I wrote about crime and suspicious activity on my street -- not just my neighborhood, but also my actual suburban Los Angeles block. I like to build to the good stuff, so this is the second blog post of three that are coming.

Last week I mentioned the crimes of commuters speeding during rush hour, failed actors abandoning their cars, and the exchange of stolen property (electronics, luxury cars and weapons), which happens across the street on the corner. This week, let’s discuss home invasion, drug deals, and stabbings, all of which have happened on my block as well!

The first type of crime occurs in the middle of the day. Because I work in TV, I have odd hours, odd jobs, and sometimes no job, which means I am often home between 11 and 2. Here is what I’ve witnessed:

The Casual Home Invasion

I am home alone, writing, and I hear someone trying my doorknob. I go to the front door and I ask “who is it?” and I hear no answer. I look out the window and see that the person who tried to open my door has already left and is proceeding to my neighbor’s home.

He’s average in every way, but he also is wearing an orange vest, the kind that street workers use, but also the same kind you can buy at the hardware store for twelve dollars. I step outside to track his actions, but if he’s aware of me comma he’s smart enough not to look in my direction.

He has a clear strategy. He walks with authority and confidence up to every door on the block, one after the other, and tries the door to see if it’s open. If it’s not, he just keeps going. When I call the police they tell me they haven’t caught him yet, but this crime is common and profitable. 1 out of 50 homes is unlocked, he can easily try 50 doors in a little over an hour, and he’s sure to find a home to invade and rob soon.

The Violent Home Invasion

The violent home invasion involves the mule kick, and for this crime the perps usually arrive in pairs.

Two guys approach the house, and one rings the doorbell and knocks on the door while the other checks the driveway and the side of the house. If someone comes to the door, they make loud noises and shout, scaring whoever is inside -- the last thing they want is for the homeowner to open the door and see and identify them.

They say things like, “Hey, we got a live one! I don’t like this! No way! Wrong house! This isn’t Jim’s place!”

They are loud and scary, but the comments are general and not legally “threatening,” but the homeowner hears them and stays inside. But if no one answers, one will turn his back, brace himself and mule kick the door, which rips the door through both the frame and the locks. They grab what they can in less than a minute, and they go. This hasn’t happened to me, but it’s happened on my block.

The Drug Deal

I live one block off a major boulevard and there is a narrow alley between the boulevard and my block. The residents of the apartment buildings on the boulevard use the alley to drive into their ground floor parking lots, and on the residential side, the owners store their garbage cans and have access to their own detached garages on the alley.

At night the alley is dark, with only the light from the gas station on the corner illuminating the narrow strip of asphalt. If you drive down this alley after 11 p.m., cars will be parked there; lights on, engine running, and the men are doing business. They will not let you pass and they will motion for you to go around. If you insist you’d like to drive by, someone comes close and tells you to turn around.

Stabbings

I should make this singular, because there was only one stabbing, but it was directly in front of my house and on the opposite side of the street. The crime was simple: A drug buyer approached a drug dealer in the alley, somehow got the drugs in his hand before handing over the money -- and he ran. The dealers pursued him down the alley on foot. He cleared the corner, turned right and tried to go deeper into the neighborhood to elude his pursuers, but made a right again on our block.

This, unfortunately for him, is where the dealers caught up. There were no gunshots --- they just stabbed him three times, a car roared up, the dealers jumped in and drove away. Bleeding badly, the drug buyer banged on doors, but no one opened up for him at 1 in the morning.

Knowing he needed an ambulance, he then ran two blocks to the main boulevard. Where he ran into traffic and risked getting run over -- but someone stopped and called 911 and the ambulances came.

He survived.

The next morning all the neighbors seemed to instantly know about the stabbing, as if we all learned it through atmospheric osmosis. We crossed the street and looked at the red stain on the sidewalk where the victim had lost several pints of blood, and it looked like spilled wine.

The sprinklers came on and washed it away.

We compared the details we heard and we talked about how we need to put lights in the alley. A police cruiser turned the corner and came by, and the two officers on patrol drove by slowly. We all waved nervously, they waved and nodded back. They were just keeping tabs on the street where the bad stuff went down the previous night.

They kept rolling.

The crime has come and gone, but we felt better, for some reason.Still, what creates the most stress is knowing how random it all is. Like a tornado that touches down in the Midwest and destroys some homes while ignoring others, crime works the same way in Los Angeles.

I want your feedback! Is your neighborhood like mine? Or is Los Angeles unique?

Do you feel that crime is random no matter where it is, or is there a pattern than can be gleaned through observation -- and therefore prevented?

I want to know about crime where you are, what we can learn from its patterns and how we can stop it.

Next week -- San Fernando Valley Pornography -- filmed right on my block.

It’s as much as story about a dropping economy as dropping clothes, so please read!