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Another encounter with the police
There’s nothing like the sinking feeling you get when you can’t find your car. First comes the fear that your car has been stolen. (Maybe that’s because I’ve already had one stolen car.) Next, you frantically run up and down the street looking for your car even though you know the exact spot where you parked it. Once the shock wears off, you confirm the lesser of two evils: your car has been towed.
And so it was a couple of weeks ago I held little, four-year-old Sahara’s hand and ran up and down Victoria Avenue like a mad woman (not a far stretch of the imagination) looking for my car. I don’t have a cell phone (and I still refuse to have one) so Sahara and I began our trek to the Woodbrook Police Station, where I thought towed cars were kept. Of course I was wrong on that count too.
Little Sahara made a game out of finding “Granny” Debbie’s car, and my whole life, in terms of police incidents, flashed before my eyes. I was wondering why it is that the police are the epitome of promptness for towing good, hard-working people’s cars, but I have never been able to see a police officer for anyone of the many traumatic incidents I have had in my life.
Here’s what flashed through my mind on the way to the police station: I’m going to the place where my stolen car was kept after it had been crashed and totalled. Every usable part of my car was taken while my car was in Woodbrook police custody, but the thieves got off with a slap on the wrist. They actually had visas to study in the US, so they were sent on their merry way. I had nothing but a heap of metal in the end.
I thought about how, years ago, thieves terrorised my neighbourhood for two solid years and the police never came or lifted a finger to try to catch them. I thought about all the robberies at my gate in the not-too-distant past. The police weren’t interested enough to launch any investigation. When I called 999 in the middle of an armed robbery, the emergency police told me to call Belmont police.
I thought about how my daughter was robbed at gunpoint by a man without a mask just a block from the Woodbrook Police Station and how the Woodbrook police didn’t care to solve the crime. She tracked down the whereabouts of her cell phone, and got the person who bought it to go to the police station. I guess the police had to deal with the matter once the recipient of stolen goods showed up on their doorstep.
I thought about how Ijanaya had asked me last week to explain an incident regarding her friends driving through Blanchisseuse a few months ago. When her friends had called the Blanchisseuse Police Station to report a man with a cutlass breaking into someone’s SUV, the police had responded, “You bring him in.”
I was thinking so much I walked past the vacant lot where the police keep towed cars. I didn’t even notice my own grey Cube parked there because I was heading for the Woodbrook Police Station. A kind woman who worked at Scotiabank told me I needed $500 to get my car back. “Offer the police $5 for your car,” Sahara suggested.
When we reached the lot, Sahara walked straight up to the folding, white table, placed her little hands on it and said, “Some water, please.” The table looked like a concession stand at sports day. There was little comfort in looking around and seeing other stunned people trying to retrieve their cars.
At the entrance of the lot I paid the police officer, who placed the money in a cash box (you can only pay cash). She wrote a receipt by hand. Such a primitive system, I thought, and exactly where does all this money go? By that time I had to stop Sahara from entertaining the police.
“They’re not paying us for this entertainment,” I told her. I noted that there were about ten police: one in each vehicle that towed cars, four or five at the table, one taking money... What a waste of resources I thought. These police could be on the street doing meaningful work—catching criminals—not harassing people who usually get their cars towed because they’re trying to do something constructive and they don’t know they shouldn’t park where they did.
I could understand towing cars if the parking was an obvious violation: blocking a driveway or an entrance—those kinds of things—but there’s something demeaning and demoralising about the wrecker cruising up and down an area. Why is it, I still wonder, that we don’t use our resources better than this?
As I turned to walk away, Sahara turned back to the police and in her most excited voice yelled, “Bye.” She is not yet cynical or disillusioned. Hopefully, she can stay that way.
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