Last month when I was called to serve on a jury, once I was called to a courtroom I was asked to fill out a questionnaire. It consisted, as you might expect, of questions that might help uncover any pre-established biases or predilections. About halfway through, I had to stop. I was trying to make a good faith effort to be as honest and forthcoming as possible until I came to this question: "Have you ever witnessed a crime?" I had to stifle my initial impulse, which was to laugh out loud. Then I looked around the room to see if anyone else was as incredulous as I was. Maybe they hadn't made it to that particular question yet. After a moment, I began to write my answer with the phrase, "I live in Oakland, of course I have witnessed a crime."
Please understand, I have great affection for the city in which I live. I take great pride in the efforts that have been made over the past few years to make life here just a little less dangerous. That does not mean that we are out of the proverbial woods as yet. It's a big city, and we've got big city problems. I envy any of those people who simply checked the "no" box and moved on to the next question. Maybe these folks don't hear the stray gunshot every now and then, or the squealing tires up the street.
Just over the hill from us in Richmond, it doesn't seem to be getting better at all. Up there, it's just the opposite. This past Sunday, as the choir sang "Leaning On Jesus," three hooded men entered the New Gethsemane Church of God and opened fire. Two brothers, aged fourteen and nineteen were wounded. This was just a few days after a pregnant woman was shot and killed in a drive-by shooting while picking up her son at school. Either one of these incidents would leave a town shaken, but this is the town that experienced a gang rape at a high school dance witnessed by twenty, and forty-seven homocides in 2009. In Richmond, the shock value is somewhat diminished.
I'm guessing they don't ask that particular question on surveys for prospective jurors in Richmond.