But, I would assert, URBAN GEOGRAPHY can play more of a role than social variables. There are some places where thugs have clear lines of sight, and can see the police coming from afar, but--worse yet--there are extremely limited "911 portals" nearby.
What, you may ask, is a "911 portal?" Well, once again, it's my own unique term. (Or, more precisely, the term is unique in the way I use it)
Here's what it is...
It's the place where citizens view the activity which causes them to dial 911. So, it may be their front porch, their bedroom window where they can hide behind pink chiffon curtains, or the large picture window in their living room. They look through these portals, view activity, and call 911. Their view from the portal is not all-encompassing: citizens are limited by their own abilities to see, to describe in the English language, to be confident of what they have seen, to react to the situation with clarity and the ability to convey information to the 911 system.
A 911 portal may be the square of sidewalk you stand upon, describing something a block away, worrying that you are out in the open and will be seen by thugs, and retaliated against. The portal might be highly mobile, as when one drives around on Penn Ave. N., calling in hookers, and you can zoom in close, see how the suspects are dressed, and then zoom away to call 911 out of sight.
The citizen using the 911 portal may be caught up in the action itself, and they often are. They may say, "There is a man standing outside my house yelling. What does he look like? Well, I am afraid to go to the window. He has a big hunk of cement, and I'm afraid he will throw it through the window..." Being caught up in the action, or the FEAR of being caught up, limits the willingness of citizens to call 911 in the first place. Of course, citizens who hate and/or fear the police are not going to call 911, even to the extreme of being shot by somebody and refusing to tell the police ANYTHING.
So, when considering a decency dead zone, ask yourself, "Where would somebody look and call 911? Who would that person be? Would that person actually call or avoid calling? How well can that person see from their portal? What would their portal be?"
Thinking like this, go stand somewhere like the Emerson Ave. Market, on Emerson Ave. N.
I would assert there is constant loitering and up-to-no-good hanging out in this area. But who is going to call the police? The people next door who have a loud domestic dispute on their front lawn while citizen do-gooders are trying to get a pair of shoes off the power line? The folks across the street who are seldom seen, seldom heard, heck, who knows if anybody even LIVES in those houses? The situation can fester for years until--for example--some slightly naive person from Wisconsin accidentally buys a house in the middle of a decency dead zone, wakes up one morning, and says, "Oh my God!"
Police procedure itself helps to create the "decency dead zones," because 911 data is used to figure out where cops should patrol. But who is going to call 911 from a window that doesn't EXIST?
The area around the Emerson Ave. Market, Wally's Foods, a certain apartment building near Hawthorne Crossings strip mall, and so forth, these are "decency dead zones." And part of the reason they exist and crime festers there, and police can't seem to get at the crime, is because few "911 portals" are nearby.
In a future blog post, I will discuss the role of "911 citizens," those ultra-involved citizens who, much like the heroes of United Airlines Flight 93--said, "We are going to something."