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Crimefighting Mama

SOME COLUMNS AGO, I wrote about drug deals happening on my nice little corner of Whittier and how tough it is to get the police there in time to catch anyone doing anything. After that column ran, a police officer phoned me at home to suggest that I, a mother of three untrained in the arts of self-defense, “step up” to handle these problems myself.

Well, all right then.

Now that I know that menopausal women with carpal tunnel and weak eyesight are the city’s last line of defense against the evildoers, I’m on the case. Rest easy, neighbors and fellow citizens.

Even with a personal crime-fighting budget that is more severely strapped than the city’s, and without cape, tights or even a badge, I admit that I have realized some modest success.

So I’ll share a few enforcement techniques I’ve mastered over the months. Maybe there’s an Oprah Book Club or yoga class in Linden Hills that wants to join me in “stepping up” solidarity. You go, girls.

To start, you need a nice pair of night vision binoculars. You can double-click on these at Amazon for about the cost of a decent facial, and they’ll double for bird-watching, which is nifty. As I’ve learned from experience, when you dial up 911, you are quizzed on all manner of descriptive details that cannot be ascertained from the safety of your home. Excuses such as “It’s dark, I can’t see into the car and what if they have a gun?” don’t float with 911 operators. They want facts, and they are not understanding if you don’t provide them. Turn off the kitchen lights, grab your scopes, and think “Harriet, The Spy.”

Not to contradict myself, but sometimes if you don’t turn off the kitchen lights, you get better results. The élan of scoring a dime bag on the corner (or whatever it is those crazy kids are calling it these days) is tarnished when a woman who looks like your mom is peering at you from behind lace curtains. Make your observation obvious, and if you catch the eye of a dope fiend, hold the phone up to the window and mouth “I am call-ing the po-lice.” They’ll go away.

When 911 demands more details than I can spot from the kitchen, I like to walk on out to the car in question, tap on the window and ask, “ Excuse me, sir. I have 911 on the phone here, and the nice operator would like to know the color of that hoodie you’re wearing. Would you call that indigo or cerulean?”

I am often gardening when cars park along the boulevard and drivers begin doing business in broad daylight. I have two gardening maneuvers that have proved particularly effective. One is to march over to the car waving whatever garden implement I have in hand and say something intimidating, such as “I have a weed whacker here and I know how to use it!” or “Oh, fer crying out loud!” The element of surprise works for me. Drug dealers rarely expect a middle-aged woman wielding a garden trowel to do them wrong. Little do they know.

If that fails, this one always works: pluck the lawn sprinkler out of the pentunias, haul it out to the curb, and turn on the water. No one likes a damp SUV.

Sometimes I just stomp toward the car making the “clean your room up this minute, young man, or I’ll ground you!” face. Even drug dealers have mothers, and they know that face. They flee.

Sometimes I stroll slowly around the car making notes on a pad of paper. This tends to make them fidgety.

Sometimes I stand in the raspberry patch and shout over the sidewalk, “There are a lot of drug deals on this corner, so we call the cops on every car — just so you know.” Everyone leaves after that one, even the mail carrier.

And then there’s the ultimate secret weapon. I catch the eye of a skulking no-goodnik and give him the “did you do your homework?” glare. And then I say, in my most withering tone, “Your mother would be so proud.” They slink away in shame. I wonder if the feds know about that one.

What I’m doing fixes nothing, of course, other than to move the problems onto someone else’s corner. But if that corner houses an annoyed woman with a garden trowel, watch out.

This appeared in the Southwest Journal September 4, 2009.

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