By Nathan Barton
You are driving around town, going about your daily business.
You are downtown: you promised the preacher you’d stop by to help him move some furniture in his office. But all the spaces around the building and in the parking lot are taken. So you finally find a space a block away. It’s only a couple of doors down from the Kitten Shop – which is NOT a pet store. You look at their black-coated windows and the enticing signs advertising XXX with disgust as you walk in the back door of the meeting house, where Joe Smith meets you. An hour later, now hurrying to get to the car before the meter expires, you drive off to your next stop. You see a police car just ahead of you, at the traffic light before you make your first turn off the street where you parked.
This is a rental house you are helping your maiden aunt with. It used to be a nice neighborhood. While the house and yard itself is nice, and you fortunately have a great tenant, the house to the east now is some sort of boarding place, with people going in and out all hours. Although there is no red lamp by the entrance, you are pretty certain there should be one. On the other side of Auntie’s property is a rundown three-apartment building. The smell of pot – now legal – is strong as you quickly check with the retired tenant, who has to leave for a medical appointment. But the two of you do the daily chore of picking up all the trash thrown in the narrow space between the fences and the next door neighbor. Including a huge number of beer cans and bottles. You catch a strong odor of ammonia and a wave of heat from one of the apartments. The trash cans in the alley are full, but you take the bag of trash and put it in your trunk then leave. As you do, a patrol car rolls past, the officer waving at you. With what is almost certainly going on, you are glad they seem to be patrolling frequently.
Your next stop is the hardware store. A school chum from years ago runs it, in the old downtown area. He taking you to lunch. As you walk of his store out with him, several obvious gang members step onto the sidewalk from the alley by his store. You aren’t worried, you both are carrying concealed. But they go their way after a bit of hesitation and some glares, just as another police car glides by. Your buddy says that a couple of the gangs with turf in the area (and fighting over it) have demanded protection money, but (he pats his waist) he is prepared and works with the police to make sure they stay under control.
He waves off your concern about exactly who the cops in this part of town are working for. While he leans a bit towards your own minarchism, he is a solid conservative Republican more angry about RINOs than most.
At the diner, you take a booth, teasing each other about who has to face the back and who gets to face the street. You ignor the people in the next booth: several well-dressed businessmen in suits and ties discussing something quietly with firm gestures. You win and face the front, where you see a police car idling across the street. Like the others, it has one of the new candybar units with a camera array on it. Good, you think. Cops are more likely to stay honest if they know their actions are being recorded.
A few days later, with breakfast, you open your smart phone and turn to the electronic version of the daily in town. The headline is interesting. “Newspaper and police work together to stop crime in our town.” The main part of the story (in the local section) is a pictorial. You scroll down in shock.
There you are. In front of the Kitten Shop, identified as an adult bookstore. Next Auntie’s house, where the caption points out the illegal brothel and bar on one side and a known meth lab house on the other. You were photographed carrying that trash bag. The next photo is you and your buddy enjoying a visit with “members of the local chapter of the Bloody Hand,” a national street gang. The caption points out you are both carrying concealed pistols. A photo of the diner is last: the headline identifies the men in the next booth as being mobsters well known to the police.
You are “a businessman whose identity will be revealed to the Grand Jury,” who “appears to be a bagman” for several area criminal enterprises. Part of the story jokes about whether it is lab waste, money, or meth in the trash bag you carried out to your trunk.
The local “Anti-Corruption and Racketeering Task Force” identifies you as “a threat to law and order.” Their joint local-state-federal efforts expect to have you in front of a judge and jury very soon. The cooperation of local police is praised: using their license-plate cameras and tracking software and their surveillance vehicle and body-cams to gather the evidence that will put you and your co-conspirators away.
There is even a brief quote from Hizzonner the Mayor. You’ve opposed him, publicly in City Council hearings, for his wasteful spending and ever-deteriorating infrastructure. “I cannot tell you how shocked I am at this revelation,” he says. “The man was a constant irritant to the City, but we never thought he might be engaged in organized crime like this. We need swift justice to get him off the streets.”
As you drop the phone, it, the landline, and your wife’s phone all start ringing at once.
Note: This story is based on a recent article on the Electronic Freedom Foundation website. (c) 2018 N A Barton