Are You Safe At Home?

Imagine Michael O’Connor hiding in a closet while you sit in your living room watching television. You go up to bed and he starts rifling through your things, taking what he wants. You hear a noise downstairs. It’s dark. You’re alone. The noise is too sharp to be anything but someone in your house. A footstep. A thud. You don’t have a dog or a husband. What do you do?

You call the cops. Five minutes pass. You hold your breath.

He’s coming up the stairs. You’re on the second floor. Too high to jump.

If this guy wants to hurt you, he’s going to. You imagine being stabbed. Raped. Killed. He’s almost to your door and you have no defense except to hide.

The sad reality is that cops don’t prevent crime. They react to it. Little solace when you’ve been victimized.

Have you been robbed? I have.

Chevy Cavalier Z24

In 1995 I bought a brand new Chevy Cavalier Z24. It wasn’t the coolest car on the planet, but I worked my butt off to buy it. The first night I parked it at my apartment, someone jammed a screwdriver into the lock, got in, and ripped the plastic off the steering column. Luckily the thief couldn’t get past the alarm.

A few years earlier I had a Datsun 210 parked in front of city hall in New Bedford. That car was stolen on a Saturday afternoon. My college textbooks, my golf clubs, clothes. Stuff I was really attached to. I was a kid working my way through college 80 hours a week in the summer and fulltime during the school year. I couldn’t afford to replace all that stuff. But some punk took my stuff and sold it for a tenth of its value.

Years later I lived in a really nice neighborhood, the kind of place you move to get away from city life. Three years ago people started breaking into houses and cars at night. I had had enough of punks walking in and taking what they wanted from me. I had plenty of guns, but nothing suitable for regular carry. I bought a .380 that I could wear every day. And I did.

An old boss of mine said, “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.”

Three times I did what George Zimmerman would have done. I saw cars parked in the neighborhood that didn’t belong and I walked up to them, gun in my belt, and asked what they were doing. All three times they drove away and I didn’t see them again.

I didn’t flash my gun. I didn’t shoot anybody. But these guys knew not to come back.

There has been a lot of media hype and attention to the fact that George Zimmerman was an older “white looking” guy and Treyvon Martin was a “black” kid. The media loves to inflame racial tensions when a story like this hits the news, but what about the facts?

George Zimmerman

George Zimmerman

Trayvon Martin

Trayvon Martin

What I haven’t been seeing in the media is that the residents of the Retreat at Twin Lakes, the complex where Zimmerman was community watch coordinator, made 402 calls to the police in one year. Are you kidding me? 402 calls. That’s a crime epidemic. No wonder Zimmerman was out there with a gun.

You may be thinking Zimmerman was a nut, calling the cops every five minutes. Nope. According to Wikipedia, Zimmerman called the cops 16 times. So, 386 times other people called.

My question to you is… If you lived in this complex wouldn’t you be out there with a gun next to Zimmerman?

We can’t know the outcome of this case before it is tried, but before you convict George Zimmerman in your own mind, consider the following:

  • The Retreat at Twin Lakes had 402 calls to the police in one year.
  • Zimmerman called the cops, one of the rare times he did, because he thought something was wrong.
  • Trayvon Martin may have been young, but he was 7” taller than Zimmerman.
  • There is a photo of blood coming out of the back of Zimmerman’s head, taken by a bystander.
  • Eyewitnesses report Martin attacking Zimmerman, though the information is sketchy.

When I consider these facts it appears to me that Zimmerman was part of the solution. He was out there trying to stop a crime wave around his home. Martin felt threatened by Zimmerman because he was being followed. Based on what I read, Martin had a right to be where he was, but instead of telling Zimmerman so, he attacked. Who attacked whom may not be known, but it appears that Martin was winning the fight and threatened to cause serious injury to Zimmerman by smashing his head against the ground. That’s when Zimmerman shot Martin dead.

Martin’s death is a tragedy. We may never know what really happened, but before you convict George Zimmerman, consider that we all have a responsibility to our community. Right or wrong, George Zimmerman was trying to protect his.

What do you think happened that night?

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26 Comments on “Are You Safe At Home?”

  1. Frank Cinnella says:

    I think Zimmerman is being tried by the Al Sharptons of the World who have no idea what really happened. Remember, Martin lived in Miami, so he was not a regular in the area. He was on SUSPENSION from school; I doubt that was because he was so smart he was given time off for being ahead of the curve. 911 is pretty much useless, but besides yourself, it is all you have, and George Zimmerman used it until he had to take matters into his own hands. Here we had a kid named JJ Revere who was ‘an innocent black kid shot in cold blood by a white cop” according to media reporting and Al and Jesse. JJ was trying to run the cop over (he was 12) and refused to stop so the cop shot at him, not fatally, but shot him. Riots ensued through St. Petersburg. Last year, JJ was shot and killed by another black man outside a bar at 3:00 AM. He was on his eleventh( or so) probation since the shooting, and was not even supposed to be out at a bar or at that time. He had been arrested 11 times and every time he was given another chance. This “good” kid was a career criminal, and it started when he was twelve. SO was Martin really this ‘good’ kid ? I don’t think so, I think he was looking for trouble and found more than he wanted. Maybe a shot to the leg would have solved the problem, but once you pull the gun, your choices are usually kill or be killed. I am sorry the kid died, but don’t believe it was racially motivated at the core, nor was he just minding his own business.

    • cjwestkills says:

      Stories like your JJ abound Frank.

      That’s why I wrote THE END OF MARKING TIME. It is sad that we can identify the kids who are in trouble, but over and over we fail to help them.

      There are no easy answers for troubled kids who don’t get the support and education they need.

  2. Amber West says:

    What do I think happened?

    I know that a man approached a kid (yes, he was tall, but thin, so we don’t really know that he was an imposing figure) after being told specifically by the dispatcher not to. I know that the kid wasn’t following him, but merely walking in a neighborhood he had every right to.

    It is entirely possible that Trayvon threw the first punch. He could have felt threatened by the man that kept following him. He could have let his ego allow him to show “he was tough” when Zimmerman confronted him. What I can’t accept is that Zimmerman was part of the solution. If he had allowed the cops to do their job, Trayvon would not be dead.

    You are not alone in the argument you make. What I don’t get is that when someone says Zimmerman was just using reasonable force to defend himself, why isn’t that the case with Trayvon? From the report from Zimmerman himself, Trayvon really went off on him when he saw the gun. So, using the same logic, doesn’t that make Trayvon part of the solution?

    I think both people played a part in how things went down, and wouldn’t call either one innocent, but to say that Zimmerman was part of the solution doesn’t sit right with me.

    • cjwestkills says:

      Amber,

      I didn’t mean to imply that shooting Trayvon was part of the solution. I meant the act of patrolling the neighborhood and trying to help the police is helping to stop the rampant crime.

      We can’t know what started the fight, but Trayvon does NOT appear to be part of the solution. If someone approaches me and asks what I’m doing, I tell them. I don’t punch them in the face.

      It APPEARS that Trayvon inflamed the situation by starting a fight over nothing. The facts may prove otherwise, but reasonable people don’t get in a fight because they walk through a neighborhood.

      Maybe Zimmerman was abusing his power. If so that is a shame. We’ll have to wait and see.

    • Amber,

      All your claims about what happened are not supported by eye-witnesses nor the initial police report, starting with “I know that a man approached a kid”.

      This is actually in dispute, along with “after being told specifically by the dispatcher not to.” There is evidence that Zimmerman, when told by the dispatcher to not follow Martin, actually did stop following him.

      What happened that night? I do not know but I’m thinking a jury is going to find out. I do know that people with an agenda, people involved with race baiting and mascot politics, have inflamed passions and obscured the facts. We have doctored 911 calls, convenient “unenhanced” police station video and a murder charge with very flimsy probably cause (from a legal perspective).

      But, with that said, I too don’t feel Zimmerman is part of the solution, Or society does not morally support people interjecting themselves anywhere in the safety process except base self-defense. I myself carry a weapon, but unless the situation is very specific to me or something very blatant like a man attacking a woman or a child, I am not going to interfere. In fact, I’ve been trained NOT to interfere.

      And that is a symptom of a sick society.

      In the long run, it may not matter too much. People are arming themselves in very large numbers and the crime rate for legally armed citizenry is lower than the crime rate among police. This is having a dramatic impact on crime, and will continue to so, especially as women arm themselves.

      • cjwestkills says:

        Thanks Anthony, great insights.

        I like your comment about legally armed citizens. I know a lot of people have the idea that people carrying guns are nut jobs and in my experience it just isn’t so.

        I am really troubled that as a society we have really outsourced responsibility for our communities to the government. If we want to live in safe neighborhoods, it is up to us to know our neighbors and to be smart about protecting ourselves and our community.

        A big part of that is trying to reach out and help troubled youth. Kids like the JJ that Frank mentioned really deserve better, but helping them is a huge undertaking.

      • Amber West says:

        Anthony, I apologize for stating that “I know” he approached. I can’t possibly know anything for a certainty since I was not there. The recording of the call does make it clear that he was told not to follow, and Trayvon’s girlfriend does claim that he told her he was being followed.

        Could she be making it up? Sure. Just like every other person who is an eyewitness in the case, for either side. I have not seen or heard the evidence that suggests he did not follow. (I truly would like to see it if you have a link – not baiting, I just honestly haven’t and am curious, since I live down the road from where all this went on, so it’s pretty much on the news all the time here). If there was solid evidence that suggests that, it would definitely have an effect on what I think about the case.

        I do think media and politicians involvement has been a major hindrance, and that both parties likely played a part. I just don’t agree with painting Zimmerman as a victim/innocent/hero given the information that has been released thus far, ergo my comment.

  3. Ok, I’m British, so this is really, really, really hard to comprehend. I understand your argument CJ and if I was attacked in my home I would maybe have a different opinion. However, as the mum of a little boy the rampant use of guns in this country terrifies me. it’s the accidental deaths of kids finding guns that really worries me. It would never occur to me to ask if you kept a loaded gun in your house in England, yet this is what I need do if my son has a playmate at your house. I’m not sure what the solution is BUT the thing America can’t seem to do is look beyond itself at comparable societies like Australia, Canada and Europe. They have nothing like the violence and crime America has.
    A part of me dies every time I hear that someone has gone into a college campus or workplace and shot people just because they were pissed.
    When people offer the banal argument of “guns don’t kill people, people kill people,” is the same as the stupid argument “lawyers don’t sue people, people sue people,” when there is a discussion of unnecessary and rampant litigation.
    People sue people because there are so many lawyers that need to do something.
    its the same with guns

    • cjwestkills says:

      Veronica,

      It is difficult in America to legally own a gun. The people who do tend to be very responsible in nature.

      The problem with crime in America has little to do with legal guns. Crime is decreasing here by all accounts, but if you think that legal guns cause crime, you are quite mistaken.

      IMHO crime comes from a culture of violence, the prevalence of drugs – and a need to get money for drugs, and a lack of educational attainment and opportunity.

      I have met hundreds of gun owners and I only know one person who has had a gun accident.

      • If it is difficult to own a gun, why do so many people have them. I’m aware that a lot of criminals have them illegally but if they weren’t so abundant they wouldn’t be able to get hold of them. Again, look to Europe, we have lots of criminals but hardly any of them have guns because gun control is very rigid.
        I totally agree with you that the solution is access to education and opportunity. However there have been a lot of college campus shootings (there was one in Oakland a couple of weeks ago), by people who were in education with access to opportunity.
        Im enjoying the debate! 😉

      • Veronica,

        It is difficult to own a gun and many people in the US have one. Both are true.

        Nobody in the US is impressed with gun crime. There is crime, and there is violent crime. The “gun” aspect is simply attributes to a violent crime involving a violent criminal, be it a brick, hands, feet, knives or car.

        If we turn to Europe, like we find many instances of violent crime not involving guns, especially in Great Britain, when violent crime is under reported, and when reported obscured by officials.

        But that doesn’t matter either. The true meaning of a if carrying a firearm is good or bad for society boils down to the crime rate of people who legally carry guns.

        That crime rate is low. It’s so low as the police have a greater crime rate than citizens.

        In any event, “I’m aware that a lot of criminals have them illegally but if they weren’t so abundant they wouldn’t be able to get hold of them.” is not true. A zip gun is very easy to make, you cannot ban violent criminal behavior (it occurs regardless of the ban) and in the long run it doesn’t matter if criminals have guns are not. Criminals are cowards. They prey upon the weak without mercy. But as women and minorities arm themselves, violent crime trends downward as they avoid confrontation with armed citizenry. This has been true in the US for quite some time since many of the restrictions around carrying firearms have been relaxed. It was also true in Great Britain at one time, which is the historical model for citizens arming themselves.

      • cjwestkills says:

        Anthony,

        This is interesting. Right now in the US two things are happening. Gun ownership is skyrocketing and crime is plummeting. I wonder if there is a clear connection?

      • “Right now in the US two things are happening. Gun ownership is skyrocketing and crime is plummeting. I wonder if there is a clear connection?”

        Absolutely. See “More Guns, Less Crime” by economist John Lott. The newer edition of the book contains more recent data backing up his observations he made awhile ago. He predicted the current trend we are seeing now.

      • cjwestkills says:

        Thank you for the reference Anthony!

      • cjwestkills says:

        Veronica,

        I make the distinction between access to education and attainment because in America we pour lots of money into school systems. The problem here is that in rough neighborhoods, the students pose a threat to each other, and there are so many distractions (hunger, crime, violence) that they have a hard time learning. That is the thing I’d like to see us grab onto. But we can’t solve this problem from the suburbs, it’s the people in these communities that have to make the change.

    • Your argument makes sense Anthony. All the discussions I have with reasonable gun owners make sense, they are very reasonable, I find myself nodding in agreement. Then I watch the news and think this is madness, this culture is mad. It doesn’t happen anywhere else it is unique to America. Why is that?

      • I’ve enjoyed the discussion. It really is a question of perspective and experience that shapes our beliefs and values regarding guns, crime and everything else. My perspective and experience has shaped mine as it has yours. x

      • cjwestkills says:

        I’m so glad Veronica. I’d like this blog to be a place where anyone can voice a reasoned opinion and join in a healthy discussion where people are heard.

        We might not change any minds, but the point is enjoying the discussion and maybe learning a bit about other people’s viewpoints along the way.

        I’m so glad you are here.

      • Exactly. Important stuff we need to talk about but in an open and enlightening manner. good job CJ!

      • “It doesn’t happen anywhere else it is unique to America. Why is that?”

        I do not agree with the statement. Violent crime is violent crime. It happens everywhere, some areas more than others. As I said, most Americans are not impressed the violence is caused by a gun. Violence is violence. You’re trying to tell me there is something special about gun violence and there isn’t. It’s sad when a bad guy shoots a good guy. It’s also sad when a bad guy hits a good guy on top of the head with a baseball bat. I am completely unimpressed with Europe’s “gun crime” rates. Crime is everywhere in Europe. There are places in London I would not go at night and in the day time I’m not feeling particularly safe either.

        What a firearm does is equalize force disparity. A 22-year-old woman who weighs 135 pounds can put an immediate stop to a 230 pound felon who is trying to rape her. That’s what her gun is for,

        I have guns because I live in a rural area. When I pick up the phone and call 911, the police are 20 to 40 minutes away. I’m not kidding. I talked to sheriff deputy who responded to an incident in our neighborhood several years ago. It took him 20 minutes to get here, and he sheepishly admitted that he was traveling up to speeds of 100 miles an hour on these rural roads. And that’s because he grew up here and knew them very well.

        But 20 minutes is really 2 minutes. The police cannot protect you be it 20 minute response time or 2 minute response time. And if the police cannot protect you, who can? And what is the best way? Are we saying that in order to **attempt** to save a future’s Martin’s life, you’re going to prevent me from carrying my own pistol? How does that work, actually?

        It doesn’t. That’s the actual difference between the US and many other places. For the most part, we refuse to disarm those that need protecting the most. That is unique.

  4. Hugh says:

    I thought you were a pretty smart and cool guy until I read this.
    I cannot believe you are actually using this, an instance where somebody was killed by a vigilante who should have stayed away from a person who had done nothing wrong and had every right to be there, as an argument FOR people such as George Zimmerman and yourself to carry guns.
    No gun, no death.
    YOU ARE NOT PART OF ANY SOLUTION.
    YOU ARE PART OF THE PROBLEM.
    Your blog post is a perfect example of the real cause of this. Paranoia.
    Big tough guys like you thinking you’re actually helping to protect society from people you somehow decide are criminals, instead of staying the hell out of things and letting the police do their job.
    You even started off the blog post with an IMAGINARY SCENARIO, with an IMAGINARY CRIMINAL.
    How apt.
    If you bothered to watch Michael Moore’s excellent documentary Bowling for Columbine with an open mind, the compelling argument that America’s “climate of fear” is responsible for many murders every day, rings true.
    If you had any sense at all it would be obvious to you that the fact there are many citizens, such as YOURSELF, carrying guns around in public leads to many people arming themselves who would not otherwise do so.
    I don’t like criminals either, but in places where a large percentage of the public don’t carry guns, criminals mostly don’t carry them either, and almost never use them.
    I still cannot believe you actually don’t realise that YOU are a large part of the problem, when your gun laws are the main thing that separates your country from others in the developed world, and you have approximately 10 times the amount of gun related murder per capita than these other countries.
    I’ve probably just wasted my time writing this as you probably won’t be sufficiently openminded to let it be seen on your blog, but it had to be said.
    I feel very sorry for you, and everyone else who sees things the way you do on this subject, because it shows that your government’s conditioning of its citizens to fear everything has has a terrible effect on your lives, and for all the hype in your country about FREEDOM, it is the single greatest thing you’ve been tricked out of.

    • cjwestkills says:

      Hugh,

      I’m sorry this discussion seems to have upset you.

      There are a few things I disagree with you about.

      1) George Zimmerman was asked to help protect a community that was suffering rampant crime. Yes he had a right to help protect his community. He had as much right to be there as Trayvon Martin did.

      2) It is possible that if George Zimmerman did not have a gun, he could have been killed or seriously injured. Martin was repeatedly banging his head on concrete.

      3) My post shows two instances of me being the victim of a property crime. And cases of my neighbors being affected as well. My fictional post was for the reader to understand what it feels like to be vulnerable.

      4) There are thousands of people treated in one nearby city for heroin addiction. Many of those addicts need to steal every day to feed their habit. It is not guns, but drugs that cause them to steal and they do it often. One man recently killed a woman over some fishing poles he wanted to sell. Not about guns, drugs. He didn’t have a gun but killed her anyway.

      5) I think your philosophy of letting someone else take care of society’s problems is flawed. Police cannot and will NEVER prevent crime. They CANNOT protect you. They can only prosecute a criminal after he has victimized you.

      One of the biggest issues in our communities now is that we know who the problem kids are yet we don’t reach out to help them. That’s intervention that works.

      6) The real problem has nothing to do with guns. As I said earlier it is a culture of violence prevalent in certain areas, drug abuse, and lack of educational attainment and economic opportunity.

      7) We have another big problem in America. Our criminal justice system seems to be failing and we are hesitant to enforce our own laws. Recidivism is sky high and the political will to enforce our laws seems to wane more with each passing year.

      Right now our Supreme Court is hearing a case about the Arizona Immigration Law. The problem here is that our Federal Government REFUSES to enforce our laws regarding immigration. I assume that you would staunchly oppose this law too. And think that anyone who wants to walk across our border should be allowed in.

  5. jim says:

    Wow, Lawyers DO sue people. Because they are the only ones who can legally sue people(even though it is for people). But in utter contrast, guns do kill people BUT only at the hands of people. Most legal gun owners DON’t kill people but MOST lawyers DO sue people. I agree there are far too many lawyers. But the most common problem with guns are criminals getting their hands on them , not the people who lagally own them(and it is expensive and not easy). Just because you don’t have guns in your house doesn’t mean my child is safe there. Most child abuse and abductions do NOT involve guns.

    • cjwestkills says:

      Great post Jim.

      If you want to keep your kids safe, you can ask about guns, but it is far smarter to ask if they have a swimming pool. Swimming pool deaths FAR outnumber accidental gun deaths.

      If people knew the statistics and cared to learn them, they would know that legal gun ownership provides more protection than threat.

      Thank you Jim!

  6. Well, here is my 2 cents worth, for what it is worth. I have been broken into and since I read your book I get the hebbie jebbies everytime i come home in the dark. I do have 3 dogs but they are small dogs. I live in canada and there in lies the difference because in canada we don’t carry guns. At least us everyday people don’t carry guns. Thats one of the differences between our countries. So that likely would not have happened here. Not to say people don’t get shoot in canada but likey if you were doing neighborhood watch you would have a flashlight and cell phone with you, not a gun unless you were a cop. We will never know the whole story but i feel for the boy and his family and Zimmerman has succeeded in changing his life coarse. it will be intersting to see what happens as a result of this.

    • cjwestkills says:

      Thanks for you comments Julianna.

      I’m not sure if I am sorry for giving you the heebie jeebies or not. I’m glad the story resonated with you.

      It is really sad what happened to the Martin family.


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