When the sun shines down, as it occasionally does here in the Northwest, its densely packed clusters of photons do a lot more than just deliver a megadose of Vitamin D.
The results are a mixed bag as sunbeams turn houses inside out and people spill forth. Many use the invigorating power of sunbeams for summer activities such as outdoor sports, barbeques, parties and events that can only be done outside.
A small percentage of people, whose summer activies are always anticipated at the cop shop, meander along the heated pavement and contribute to the seasonal spike in street crime.
Like the Taliban awaiting the Spring fighting season, much of the crime stats spike during the long, hot (or at least warm) summer days. Some of the criminal activities that move outside during the summer include drug dealing, tagging, random street crime and gang shootings.
Open air drug markets, which can amount to little more than a dealer who regularly inhabits a specific corner, is as much a summertime phenomenon as the ice cream truck. The difference, of course, is that the druggies don’t have to listen to abrasive chamber music and chase after their drug dealers’ cars in order to get their treats.
Much of the other crimes can be attributed to the double-edged sword known as summer vacation. When school lets out there are always a percentage of kids whose summer activities have no structure–no camps, no fun events, no vacations, picnics or planned activities that would keep them from inventing their own methods for obtaining some antisocial thrills.
All of which explains why so many of these kids end up using their minimal ABC’s to tag the initials of their gang on the neighbor’s fence and demonstrate their PE skills by fighting eachother on the street and running from the cops. When that gets old they dig out some guns and really crank it up a notch.
It’s literally the same every summer.
This summer has had its share of such problems, including 13 shot in a gang melee in Kent, and numerous other drive-bys throughout Western Washington. Law enforcement officials continue to work on our responses, which include proactive gang enforcement conducted by specialized units, as well as reactive patrols that respond quickly to in-progress incidents. These enforcement efforts, which are aimed at all layers of juvenile-related crimes (most of which involve street gangs), arrive consistently each summer, much like the long, slow line of cars on Ruston Way.
It may be difficult to rewire drug addicts in a manner that prevents them from answering the silent call of the druggie on the corner on a hot summer day. But certainly we can come up with a few more dollars and a few more creative ways to keep impoverished, bored and inventive kids occupied so that the gangs don’t seem like the better option.
We might all have a better summer then.