Murders are rare in Rochester, Minnesota. To my knowledge, only one has occurred in the past two years, and it took place in my neighborhood – about a ½ mile from my front door.
My neighborhood loops in a circle, and the backside of the circle is a crappy road surrounded on both sides by brush and woods. A few houses sprinkle these woods, but it’s basically an isolated spot.
Sometimes in the summers, we’ll walk the loop. I’m not paranoid, but every time I walk this section – even before the murder – I find myself wondering what I’d do if a car drove up, and the occupants inside started to mess with me. Would I stand and fight? Would I try to flee into the brush? Or would I just stand and wait to see my fate?
I feel safe where I live, but I try to be conscious of my surroundings at all times. When the young man was murdered – apparently the victim of a drug-related crime – no police officers swept our neighborhood looking for the suspects. In fact, we noticed no additional level of police presence in our neighborhood whatsoever. If I hadn’t happened upon a newspaper that week, I might never even have known that a murder had taken place.
Stories like the Rochester murder aren’t heavily reported. Reporters from CNN don’t stand next to the memorial and report live from the scene where the victim was “brutally and senselessly murdered.” No one shares pictures of the victim on facebook.
I don’t know why some crimes should be treated differently than others. Some crimes seem to take on symbolic value, and the criminals behind such crimes apparently commit their acts out of a knowledge that symbolism matters. It will get the attention of the masses. It will be labeled “senseless” and so on, as if a crime with a motive behind it is any less horrible.
Some American cities experience scores, if not hundreds, of murders every year. Never have I heard of such a city being placed on “lockdown” so that police can find the killers, and yet it’s a safe bet that most of these urban killers live in the same neighborhoods as the people they’ve killed. What makes the lives of these urban victims – or the victim of the young man killed in Rochester – any less valuable to police and media attention? Since when should the symbolism behind the crime count for more than the crime’s substance?
What is the appropriate police response to a criminal act? Should symbolic acts of violence elicit a greater police response?
“The toilets at a local police station have been stolen. Police say they have nothing to go on.” – Ronnie Baker