The anti-violence detail was scheduled to come on at 7 Friday night.
An extra bunch of officers, focused on Jefferson Avenue, to keep things quiet. It was a good idea and a heavy lift. With 80 vacancies and 70 absences, that’s 150 cops the chief doesn’t have and the city can’t use. Yet they put extra on Friday night because, well, it was Friday night and it was July and it wasn’t raining.
And that means it’s killing season in Rochester, and across urban America, and the guns and the knives and the stolen cars are going to come out.
So the anti-violence detail was scheduled to come on at 7 Friday night.
But the bad guys got an early start, and by 7 there had been five shootings and three homicides and it had already hit the fan. And a bad day in Rochester is a lot like a bad day in Fallujah.
And the weekend just followed that course.
One 15-year-old joy-riding with a couple of pals in a stolen car pissed off the wrong people and some other guys in a different stolen car shot the hell out of them, and the 15-year-old is dead. And the next day some badass shooting up a neighborhood from his BMW got chased by the cops and missed a curve on Portland and ended up dead and crumpled, his stolen .40 by his side. Turns out that shit they tell you about seat belts is real.
And there’s more, but I can’t get it straight in my head. There was just too much. On the TV news, it took two screens of itemized crimes to get through the weekend’s shootings and bashings. The third week in July is the hottest week of the meteorological year in the Northern Hemisphere, and for two years now it’s also been the deadliest week on Rochester’s streets.
“Sun’s out, guns out” isn’t just for gym rats anymore, and the best we can do is hope for an early fall.
And pray for some sort of deliverance.
The mayor was out on the street, with the police chief by his side, and what they said was right and wise. But they don’t have a clue. They can’t. They can’t begin to understand what is afoot. Because they both, like most of us, were raised in loving homes with a family that taught them to respect their neighbor and do what’s right, to obey the law, and be a good person. They can’t begin to understand, any better than the rest of us, the shattered psyches and sinister priorities of the feral young, raised in homes of chaos and evil, cursed by upbringings at the hands of those who were never properly brought up themselves.
It is a generational curse of decivilization, the descent into savagery, burning like a Canadian wildfire on the streets of urban America, the stench and fear carried on the wind of the evening news.
It was a bad weekend. Good people are terrorized and a good city is scarred.
And on Monday morning, that’s what I hold on to. The certain knowledge that there are good people in Rochester, tens of thousands of them, the best people, many of them stalked by fear for themselves and their families. I run by their homes every day. The grass is tended and the flowers are pretty and the people are kind, and I jog back to my office while they wait tensely for the sound of gunfire in the air, the fear of bullets through their walls, the dread of an officer knocking at their door.
They are good people, the best people, and their city is good. There is much beauty, there is much promise, and there is a resurgence tentatively underway. But there are also screaming sirens, and blood on the ground, and it only takes a little bit of cancer to kill a very strong person.
The mayor is right about the judges. The chief is right about the families. The captain is right about the laws. The judges, parents, and lawmakers have abandoned Rochester to rot and ruin, and weekends like this one just passed.
Today we need the troopers, tomorrow we need new laws, and the day after that we need a generation of Rochester children raised by real parents, not just breeders, but mothers and fathers who send sons and daughters into the world with values in their hearts instead of guns in their hands.
Until then, all we’ve got is the mercy of God and a thin blue line stretched impossibly thin.