I’m starting to hurt a little. My left foot. My right shin. My right hand throbs. I had a pretty crummy afternoon.
I had to get home early to watch the kids. The wife was going out to a club thing, so I left a little early. I’ve done it before, it’s really no big deal.
I hop on the train and get the usual favorite seat, the one where I can lay my backpack flat, and still leave it touching my feet, so I can feel it. Wouldn’t want it growing legs or anything. After all, it’s got a pretty expensive laptop, and the information on it, while encrypted, would still be best left in my care.
Round about the Metro Denver station…heck, maybe 10th and Osage, I look up and see the usual groups of younger kids get on. The girls are off in their group, a group of three or four boys are standing at the top of the steps in the middle of the train. I notice they’re of a certain ethnicity (unimportant), and they’re all wearing similar black jackets. One has a silver chain necklace. I look back down to my iPhone, where I’m surfing the web and listening to a podcast. The Train stops at the Alameda station and I see some movement out of the corner of my eyes. Someone is reaching, quickly, for my phone.
He grabs my phone.
I think “Oh, I’m not going to let him run away with it”, and I tear down the steps and run after the bolting group.
I can regret not working out for six months, but really, I was never a runner. I see I’m not keeping up with the perp, but a kid to the right is closer to me, and not quite as fast. I change targets.
And my foot slides on the concrete. I think “tuck and roll”, so I tuck and roll.
By the time I get up, they’re gone. I’m winded, and there’s no chance of catching them. I look around and don’t see any security. I see my train’s gone and think “Crap, I’m going to be late getting home” and also, “Crap, That’s a good $600 dollars, out of contract, it’s gonna cost me.”
And then I remember my backpack. It’s on a long gone train. I suddenly feel very ill-equipped.
What time is it? I dunno, I usually check my phone.
When’s the next train? I dunno, I usually check my phone.
I dime sized chunk of skin is gone from my palm and is now starting to sting.
A Bus pulls up and I run up to the driver and ask if he can call security, he says I can call them on the phone behind me. I pick up the handset and it’s quiet…then I look again and see the red button…I push it and it rings. Another time. A train is arriving. It’s my line. I hang up the phone and jump on the train.
I walk to the front and ring the bell for the conductor. I tell him my phone has been stolen, and my backpack is on the F train ahead of him. He talks to dispatch, I relay where the backpack was, and he needs to leave the station. At the next stop I’m starting to shake a little. I think to ask him for a phone and he loans me his. The 6 key sticks. I have a hard time calling home. Get it dialed on the third attempt and tell my wife my phone was stolen, I’m trying to recover my backpack and I won’t be able to be home in time. I close the phone because the door to the control room is opening, the ‘Driver’ (conductor? Engineer? Says the most unexpected thing:
“They’ve caught the kids. They want you to go back up to Alameda station and identify them.” he then mentions something about 4:15 I didn’t quite catch…but I DID catch ‘head back north’.
So I thank him profusely, and wait for a northbound train. 10 minutes or so. Seems longer. I’m pretty worked up. Train comes, I get on, I go two stops north.
I get off the train and talk to the Police. Evidently the kids are in another squad car and they’re to take me to them. I get in the back. I’m 6’6", I don’t fit well in the back seat of a Police car. I take a moment to wonder if the passers by think I did something wrong. The Officer drives around the parkinglot, answers the radio, and says “I guess they’re bringing them to us.” and brings the car back to where we started.
After a minute or two, two units pull up a little bit away, and an Officer comes back to me. He says they’ve recovered my phone, and it’s now my decision. Do I press charges? By this time, I’ve heard my backpack has been recovered, it’ll be at the Alameda station at 4:15 (a ha. That’s what the guy said.)
Now here’s the problem. Do I ‘nail their ass to the wall and teach them a lesson?’, or do I let them go as they’re already hanging out in a police car and I’m getting all my stuff back. I’m a father of two boys, aged 7, and perhaps it’s a reflection of where I am with them, but I think “If I talk to them, maybe that’ll be enough”. The Police aren’t permitted to lead me one way or the other. I’m sorting about for a deciding factor. “How’s the phone?” “It’s perfect, sir, there’s nothing wrong with it.” “If I press charges, do they find out who I am?” “Yes sir, witnesses retain anonymity, as the victim you do not.” “So will this be a big impact on my life?” “Probably one court appearance, sir.”
No deciding factors there. I think back to the kids wearing all the same jackets and wonder about gang activity. I guess the last thing I want is to give them a name and address to egg (or worse). So at this point, they get a drive home in a police car, the parents get a talking to, and I can get busy healing and moving on.
“Does this go on their record?” “They get a line that says an incident occurred but the victim declined to press charges.” “So it counts, they get dinged if something happens in the future” “Not really”
The funny thing is, at this point, the two things I haven’t felt are fear or anger. I dunno why, perhaps they’re young enough I didn’t feel threatened. Perhaps it’s the nature of the incident. It was a smash and grab, half a step above shoplifting.
I turn to the OTHER officer to my left. Crack a smile and say “Whaddaya think, is this incident going to change their life?” Turns out he’s RTD security, says he’s been doing this for XX years and doesn’t think I want to hear his answer.
So, it’s down to: Nail their ass to the wall, or turn them free. Lose my anonymity, or give them a mulligan?
It’s a tough question, and there really doesn’t seem to be a factor leading me one way or the other. Dumb stupid kids doing dumb stupid things.
Discuss and I’ll tell you what I decided.