Comrades. I have been confronted and am in sore need of counsel. I guess you’d describe me as a bleeding heart lefty. What that means to me is that I think you should be nice to everyone without requiring them to produce proof of their worth, and that it’s counter productive to spend your life imagining that someone is about to take your stuff. So far, it’s an attitude that has served me well, people generally enjoy being treated nicely first crack out of the box, and no one has tried to take my stuff. Until now.
Comrades, for various complex reasons, the Housing Commission has come to our leafy suburb. The house two doors up from us is occupied by a motley collection of young people with no car and no visible adult supervision. Shortly after they moved in, the local petty crime rate went through the roof. I think it was essentially zero in July, moving to 23 break and enters in August. I have personally witnessed one of the young people attempting to climb my back fence from the vacant land behind. He was most surprised to meet my frosty eye, but had had the foresight to kick a football into my yard as an alibi. He hadn’t been playing with the ball, and there wasn’t anyone else there with him. I later heard from other aggrieved neighbours similar stories, that kid must have had no ball skills. In some cases the ball had disappeared altogether. My next door neighbour has been broken into three times and has just spent a few thousand on an alarm system which she regularly sets off most afternoons as she enters the home. I’m sure she’ll get the hang of it eventually, it takes a bit of getting used to.
Here’s the thing though. We haven’t been broken into. I’m pretty sure they’ve been through our outside bathroom, the cupboards were all left open, but apparently they had no use for a decades old hairdryer, superannuated lipsticks, two dozen rolls of toilet paper or boot polish of any colour. And the crimes they’re committing are petty, they’re pinching stuff from cars that weren’t locked, mailboxes, getting through open windows. None of it is Mission Impossible stuff. Because my husband is the opposite of me and has always had a deep suspicion of his fellow man, we have an alarm, bars on the windows, everything is always locked, so we’re really not targets.
As my husband says, speaking from experience, it’s not as if we’re living with the daily expectation of being shot at. Or, as another neighbour darkly muttered, at least we haven’t just discovered that our nanny whom we’ve trusted with our children for years is actually an ice dealer in the process of nicking our identities. They’re not graffiting the place, or having loud parties. I do wonder how they can afford to smoke quite so much though.
So I’d quite like to follow my life long policy of being nice to them. Yes, there was a police chase through my backyard a few weeks ago, but I wasn’t home so it didn’t really affect me. These people are my neighbours. I am trying to meet their eye as I walk past their house and say hello, but I’m rarely successful. For one thing, there always seems to be different people living there. For another, they’ll often melt back into the house when pedestrians approach. I can kind of understand. For their part, they are behaving as they always have done, only presumably in areas less salubrious than our suburb where that kind of thing is more of a given. So the friendly approach is probably destined to be met with suspicion. Am I gathering evidence for the narks?
My question is, comrades, how do I treat them? I feel like taking them biscuits or giving them the Horror’s cast off clothing would be seen as patronising (though my broken into neighbour always seems to be pleased to get them). I’m going to persist with the greetings. Is there anything else I can do?
It does pull on my heartstrings that a couple of the young people seem to be the same age as my beautiful, cared for, hard working Moose. He gets driven to his expensive school with home made biscuits in his lunchbox, his teachers watch him carefully, give him advice and inspiration, he’s leapt on all of the opportunities the school has given him and has met the most wonderful people through them. When his friends come over they sit around playing the Wii and cranking rock music and cracking me up with their teenage conversation. The kids two doors up don’t seem to have a parent with them, they certainly don’t go to school, when they’re not knocking off people’s mail, they sit out the front in the sun with their hoodies up, smoking and not really saying anything to each other. What has happened to them? What help are they getting? What can we, as a community, do for them that their families haven’t been able to? We just don’t know. We’re a rich suburb, surely we can afford these kids some support. Wouldn’t it be cheaper in the long run to have them learn some skills so they can get a job and some coping mechanisms generally, rather than periodically locking them up for the rest of their lives? But I wouldn’t even know where to start with persuading kids that lifting iPhones for money for smokes is a poor choice, and who am I to do that anyway? And how do they even sell them, Muffet forgot her passcode once and we pretty much had to supply internal X-rays of every member of the family to Apple get it unlocked again.
So, if you work for the Housing Commission, get in touch. I can tutor, I can make them food, I can teach them to knit, I can take out their bins when they forget. But if you could persuade them to stop pinching stuff, that would also be very much appreciated. I’m in a much better position to be a good neighbour than they are, but that might be where we draw the line. It’s not going to stop me trying to say hello to them though.