Monday, January 05, 2009

City Paper Should Make Citizen's Arrests

Why do the editorial voices of the mainstream press shout "Enforcement!" just when council members begin to deal with the crime problems that gravitate toward high-volume sales of beer? A while back the press had issues with CM Anna Page's successful attempt to stop BYOB at crime-magnet after-hours clubs. Today the anonymous "editorial voice" (which is pretty much just another name for "blogger-in-hard-copy") ruled from on high that CM Erica Gilmore's bid to prohibit the sale of single cans or bottles of beer by off-sale permit holders in certain urban neighborhoods is "silly."

Of Southcomm's gatekeepers, I say, "Consider the source." As far as I know, the City Paper has never made any attempt to look into the problems the single-serve-selling market that occupies the corner of 7th and Garfield in Salemtown, even though they write like their grasp on the problems is firm. If a CP reporter had ever bothered to cover our neighborhood watch he or she would understand that we have been reporting our crime problems consistently to police for the last 4 years, and they responded as they could to activity at the Volcano Discount Tobacco Market (a.k.a. "K&M Market," a.k.a., "Norman's Market," named after the property owner, well-placed Nashvillian Kenny Norman). After some persistent work, the police convinced the store manager to sign a trespass waiver two years ago. Until that point, they could do nothing to keep people from loitering on the property after hours.

However, the police are not omnipotent, and as easy as the CP wants to make it sound, enforcement is not simple. Whenever we call in observed crime (I've seen drug deals and indecent exposure occur in front of the market; some neighbors after experienced verbal and sexual harassment by men standing outside drinking; we've had one report of prostitution in a near-by alley, which was officially investigated), the cops tell us that unless they catch someone in the act or witnesses take out a warrant and make a citizen's arrest, then there is not much that they can do beyond turning in a report and upping patrols. Increased patrols are a catch-22, because as soon as perpetrators see Metro's blues, they straighten up or disappear only to return when the coast is clear.

Last year the manager was wounded by a thief's gun-fire and had to close down the store for a couple of weeks. During that time the corner was quiet and trouble-free. It was the same thing for two weeks this past December when Metro closed Volcano down for allowing consumption on its property. I was actually chagrined by the drop in suspicious activity, because I kept watching for an opening to document violations that could have lead to permanent beer license revocation. So, if keeping the corner of 7th and Garfield crime free and Salemtown a safer place were just a matter of better enforcement and not ending the sale of single-serve beer, then why on occasions when beer sales were shut-down did the naughtiness decrease and safety increase?

The editorial voice at the CP has no clue what happens in urban neighborhoods like Salemtown. If they did, they wouldn't shout "Enforcement!" as if it weren't happening. If the editors and reporters think enforcement is such a problem, then let them drag their butts out to 7th and Garfield and start making citizen's arrests; let them start documenting suspicious behavior and signing warrants against law breakers. They should be willing to back up their cheap editorial bravado with some street tough risk-taking. Better yet, why don't they investigate why property owner Kenny Norman harbors a property that invites shady dealings? Why choose the easy route of scapegoating police instead of investigating absentee landlords (other than blaming the cops is the path of least resistance for lazy analysis)?

Erica Gilmore is only trying to represent her constituents' concerns. Urban neighborhoods have this kind of blight. There is no contradiction--as the anonymous media hacks argue--in her support for Yazoo Brewery in Marathon Village, unless neighbors who live around the Village identify the same sort of problems that occur in places like Salemtown. Our neighborhood association endorsed her first deferred attempt to prohibit single serve sales because we see firsthand the problems that high-volume, off-sale beer creates, and those are the very same reasons our president Freddie O'Connell is announcing our support for her new effort, which will be introduced in Metro Council tomorrow night.

The mainstream media doesn't have to support the bill, but if they want more enforcement, either they should produce evidence that demonstrates that the police have not been enforcing (instead of stoking an unsubstantiated perception that enforcement is lacking) or they should set up a stake out at Volcano Discount Tobacco Market, make like Gomer Pyle, and engage the enemy in a few citizen's arrests themselves.

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