I remember feeling safe in Gulfport. I distinctly remember regularly leaving the keys in my car and, on more than one occasion, leaving the house with only a flimsy wood screen door protecting my computer, jewelry and secret stash of cash from the outside world.
God may watch out for children and drunks, but thankfully, the Universe looks after weekly reporters. And since they both watch out for fools, I’m doubly protected. It wasn’t until I moved to the south side of St. Pete that I started losing my faith in humanity. That little experiment in stupidity cost me more than a stolen scooter and many a night’s sleep, but, thankfully, moving to the beaches and then back to Gulfport helped me feel safer.
See, I get irritated when El Cap insists on silly things like alarm systemsand locking the door. I keep telling him, “I don’t want to live in fear”and he keeps replying, “I don’t want to live with our stuff stolen,” so we compromise and get a fancy alarm system that I always remember to use. Since it works even if I forget to lock the door (do burglars read this column? I hope not), we both win.
I don’t want my stuff stolen, either, but I still cling to an admittedly naive ideal of Gulfport. If I were a hippie (as some have called me, including our own chief of police, although I’m hoping he was joking), I’d try to feed you the notion that “they’re just things, man, and what matters is who I am, you know?” but I’d wager anyone who says that hasn’t had three lawnmowers stolen in one month and then received a high grass notice from the city.
But back to El Cap and his militaristic practices of making sure our home is safe: One of the most irritating things in the world is when El Cap is right. And it turns out he’s right about needing to lock things up, even in Gulfport.
Friendly, everybody-knows-your-name, safer-than-the-south-side, wonderful Gulfport has recently experienced a rash of bike thefts. I’m not sure exactly how many thefts constitute a “rash,” but if you follow the Facebook pages (Gulfport Ideas and Opinions, Gulfport Community Co-Op, and any number of others with “Gulfport”in the name), you’ll read about all the hapless victims of a band of bike thieves cruising the neighborhoods and liberating bikes.
The hapless part, at least, is correct. Because, of all the bikes taken, police tell us that only three of the victims used bike locks. That tells me we’re victims of our own optimism, because these are crimes of opportunity. Crimes of opportunity, it seems, will always trump our Pollyana belief in a Gulfport Utopia.
Look, I’d like to live somewhere where I didn’t have to lock my door or my bike. I’d also like an 18-inch waist, a man who tolerated my crazy, and a cat that didn’t keep bringing me presents that used to be alive. I suspect only one of those things exists.
That doesn’t mean Gulfport has a crime problem, though the former chief of police did tell me the biggest crime problem he faced in the city was the illusion that nothing bad happened here. People wouldn’t lock up, he’d complain, because they thought it was too safe for that. Then someone would walk through the front door, steal the cash they’d left in full view of the window.
Everybody, including myself, has a touch of larceny in their heart, and the police can’t help you if you don’t help yourself. Of course, some folks blame the city. Sure, the cops made two arrests for bike thefts last week and both those thieves are still in jail, which is weird, because I’ve seen accused murderers released sooner. To some, it doesn’t seem to matter – the city should do more. I disagree. The problem, folks, isn’t the police failing us. It’s us failing to discern between “safe”and “stupid.”
Contact Cathy Salustri at CathySalustri@theGabber.com.