Monday, October 03, 2011

Fair and Balanced? Or Not?

Over at my FB page I put up a link to a Trib story about a family that is leaving their home after a police raid.  It's a story worth reading in tandem with the comments.  I, and a couple of others, took some push back on our responses due to the perceived failings of the article itself.  Was it fair, balanced and respectful of the facts?  A journalist acquaintance thinks not.  Well, she may be correct but I am not inclined to dismiss the story so easily.

First of all let's be very clear about something - being house rich and cash rich are two very different situations.  We live in a far different economy than 5-10 years ago when it might have made sense for Mr. Harris to get a HELOC on his house and fix it up.  Would he have been able to do so?  Would he have used the money to fix the house or take care of family members?

We may also never know why the Building Inspectors never saw fit to pay a visit until after the raid.  The description in the article is of a house that needs more than a coat of paint and some TLC.  All of the above is fodder for a followup story by anyone disputing Schmich's reporting.

I went back and read ALL of the comments posted as of 1:49 PM Oct 3.  The comments are a mixed bag.  There are allegations of felony violations, misdemeanor violations, rude and intimidating behavior and also comments disputing those very allegations.  And all by neighbors or folks living nearby.  Who to believe?

The dead dog was reputedly 16 y.o. and died during the last heatwave.  Given the dog's age that does not surprise me a whole lot.  The vet wrote a report that went to the police that indicated problems.  Schmich reports the Animal Crimes unit appears to have been the lead on surveillance and the raid.  If reported correctly, it is interesting that this was the lead unit and not the Gangs unit, considering the allegations of gangbangers hanging around.  The local canine advocate disagrees that the confiscated dogs were abused/malnourished.  Who to believe?

What is undisputed - a felon lived in the house along with other relatives.  How many felons in this town live with family?  How many families have extended family members, and how many of those, living with them?  The numbers given regarding the Harrises (in the comments) were pretty high but I didn't read anything in the article suggesting that overcrowding was a concern of the authorities or too many residents were an issue.

What bothers me about this story is that no drugs or evidence of felonious behavior were found.  After all that surveillance misdemeanor charges is the best anyone can come up with, which says something about life in that house.  At least one blogger assumed meth was being cooked in the house, based on who knows what evidence.  She has since taken down her post, but the quotes from it offer insight into a thought process that appears to be based on inference not evidence.  One can be rude or intimidating without being a criminal.

The building inspectors, who could have come much earlier, apparently showed up as a consequence of a full court bureaucratic press, typically seen when there are residents you want out, or buildings you want closed because they are hazards.   All those years Mr. Harris skated along unnoticed and now he has to move because he has no cash, and is unlikely to get it out of the house given its condition.  The loan world is a much harder place to navigate now than it was 10 years ago.

Mary Schmich may or may not have reported this story properly, but the treatment of this family is teh suck! to put it mildly.  I will bet that the price of the land may be the maximum the Harrises get for their property.  Hopefully, Mr. Harris and his wife will be able to sell it quickly and find something they can afford for themselves.  They won't always be there to take care of the rest of the family, all of whom need to begin taking care of themselves.  Mom and Dad won't last forever.

In the meantime, the anxious neighbors who saw gangbanging, dope dealing, and dogfighting going on at that house can now look for another target.


Fargo said...

When I read this article, my gut feeling was that there was a LOT left out. I spoke to a police officer I know who works in that district and has dealt with the family many times over the last several years. He is a fair-minded person who believes in giving people second chances and working with them to help resolve problems. To briefly summarize his response: "Good riddance!"

He described gang and drug issues, (centering around the grandsons, ignored by the parents and grandparents), filth, lack of building maintenance, and general denial on the part of those parents and grandparents that there was any kind of problem. He said there had been many previous pleas by neighbors to clean up the property, put some limits on the loud-at-any-hour visits by the grandsons' friends, and to have some courtesy towards neighbors who need to get some sleep so they can get up and go to work in the morning. He didn't blame the neighbors for reaching the point of ENOUGH after all the years of enduring the problems they inflicted on their block.

It's very much like situations I've seen in Rogers Park, where a family (or families) in a building have absolutely NO respect for their neighbors and community and let their home become a magnet for undesirable activity at all hours of the day and night.

I have no problem co-existing with neighbors who are different from me, as long as there is mutual courtesy. There has to be some limit when a neighbor in a densely populated neighborhood chooses behavior that is effectively a loud, emphatically raised middle finger towards the rest of the neighborhood.

If they needed assistance, there are many places they could have sought it. It's difficult to have sympathy for the "victims" in Schmich's story, when so much of the situation could have been better if they chose to be responsible neighbors.

Kheris said...

The obvious question then is why no felony arrests during the raid? Are these guys better at hiding evidence than the average gangbanger? Are the supportive neighbors collectively blind or naive?

I totally agree about having mutual courtesy and respect in the neighborhood. That means limits of course, self imposed or otherwise.

Fargo said...

Good questions. I wish I knew the answers.