A couple years ago, there were electronic police billboards up on different corners in Newark telling people not to leave their cars running idle. As in, someone might take it if you do. It blinked, “don’t be a victim.” Now, this week, Newark PD is distributing papers onto people’s windshields saying don’t leave any valuables in your car. It’s basically the same message again: simply don’t get your stuff stolen.
Pulling that sheet off my car twice in 24 hours has left me wondering about their long-term call to action. Is this even worth the paper they wrote it on? Why don’t you just say what it is? People have been breaking into cars, so be mindful. Instead they lead with fear. Caps lock. Bullet points. Urging people to help. We’re told opportunity leads to theft instead of the truth—that police practices do not and cannot prevent theft.
The concept of decriminalization asks people to zoom out. Why would a person break into a car for a joyride or to grab some loose change? What kind of situation would you probably have to be in to even consider doing either of those things? Mostly like you’re spiraling and/or broke as hell. That is a lot of people’s reality and is the true “crime of opportunity.” People need money, not police. It’s poverty that prevents everyone from having peace of mind.
-Rachel Wagner 2020
Something else I wrote on this topic: Don’t be a victim blamer: Michael Brown, carjacking, and the Newark Civilian Complaint Review Board