wife, newborn baby and I once lived in a respected, quaint,
older Durango neighborhood. Our neighbors would bring
us tomatoes, loan us their tools, and we always shared
a story or two over our low fences. In spite of an occasional
siren or car speeding by the front window, we usually
fell asleep to the sounds of silence.
the elderly woman two houses down the street was moved
into assisted living and somehow her two teen-age grandsons
inherited the house. Out of nowhere, the entire neighborhood
I’d get home from
work to find a pair of free-range pit bulls grazing in
my front yard. I’d wake at 4 o’clock in the
morning to hear two guys screaming at each other as they
came down from who knows what. A couple nights later,
I’d sit by and watch as they hosted a half dozen,
60 mile-per-hour drag races down our residential street.
Later in the week, we’d hear the crash of metal
or catcalls made at a woman and her baby passing by on
a walk. And every morning, we’d watch as elementary
students filed past, en route to Needham Elementary, a
stone’s throw away from the now sleeping house.
Pathetically, I tip-toed
around the situation. I remembered my own teen-age confusion
and knew that I still threw parties and occasionally got
a little out of hand. Someone else will call the cops,
I thought. Someone else will go over and explain the rules,
However, the situation
never fixed itself. And finally, after another drag-racing
episode, expletive shouting match and a morning picking
broken glass off our front walk, I put the house on the
Last week, I breathed
a sigh of relief as I picked up the police blotter and
read how a rock had been thrown through a window in our
old neighborhood. I breathed a sigh of relief, knowing
that we were safely at a distance.
kept it all at an arm’s length. I’d glance
at headlines and hear sirens in the distance and count
my blessings. After all, they didn’t rip off my
car, kick my ass or break into my place and trash it.
They didn’t come through my front door and hold
me and my family at gun point. That happened over in that
neighborhood, I’d say. We don’t live in town
anymore, I’d remind myself. We dodged that bullet,
I’d tell myself.
But last week, another
violation made me rethink my stance. I remembered that
I don’t live here to dodge bullets. I have no interest
in locking my house and car. I don’t want to worry
about my office getting broken into. I’m not here
to hide as I walk around at night.
But take an attempted
robbery at gun point, a late-night rape, the theft of
money bags, an ATM robbery and throw in assaults on three
police officers, and pretty soon you’re talking
about real crime. Hiding in the country no longer cuts
For me, one of Durango’s
greatest appeals has always been its status as a great
melting pot. Somehow, this town successfully mixes people.
A wealthy second homeowner and a blue collar worker can
meet on the level in Durango. Many of the factors that
contribute to friction elsewhere in the world make for
a comfortable diversity here.
You can get away with
almost anything in Durango. You can be anyone, believe
anything and do pretty much anything you like. But there’s
one steadfast rule – don’t screw over your
Whether our cars have
been stolen, our homes vandalized or we just considered
locking the door or didn’t go out for that evening
walk, we’ve been screwed over.
I had been trying to
rationalize the ugliness and find a place to point the
finger. But then I remembered my old neighborhood. I remembered
those nights when I closed my eyes and ears. I remembered
how I opted for convenience over communication. I remembered
running off to the country rather than dealing with the
situation. And I realized that the responsibility for
policing the community begins with the community.