Tuesday, March 16, 2010

“The crime you see now, it's hard to even take its measure.”

The mansion that these teenagers in North Greenbush did 200K in damage to last month is off Snyders Lake Road, about a mile from where I grew up. It’s in a community called Pond Hill. I was 8 or 9 when Pond Hill was being built. It’s one of the most beautiful communities in the country. These are estates with inside swimming pools, 5-car garages, tennis courts, that kind of thing. In the 90’s, Mike Tyson owned a house up there, so went the rumor. It was, and still is, my dream to have a home there. What can I say? The place is beyond belief.

I was saddened to see that North Greenbush youths, regardless of how drunk they were, would so dramatically destroy a beautiful home. But I was also shocked at the audacity it takes to crowd into that super-exclusive community 80-plus deep, break into an unoccupied mansion, and get the party started. I feel like the old sheriff in the McCarthy movie No Country for Old Men. “The crime you see now, it's hard to even take its measure.” Touche, Tommy Lee Jones.

When I was 17 I was arrested for busting up mailboxes. We’d grab a Louisville Slugger, pile into somebody’s crappy car, and drive around town blowing mailboxes off their blocks. One night I messed with the wrong redneck, some guy who modeled his mailbox after his house. Both the house and box were ugly, so I put an extra swing into that destruction. The North Greenbush PD brought me in and I was forced to pay $300.00 in restitution. My father, umm, not happy. Lesson learned, the hard way. My mailbox-busting days were over. Today I recognize that petit vandalism was wrong, and I’d be red hot if some punk did it to my mailbox. But, in my defense, there’s such a thing as kids being kids, and if busting mailboxes is the only offense on my rap sheet, so be it. Did you know that RAP is an acronym for Report for Arrests and Prosecutions? See. You learn something new every day.

But this new kind of crime, this extent of damage to private property? Wow! According to Chief Rocco Fragomeni: “The damage to the house is disgusting. I am appalled that these teens thought it was okay to go there and have a party in the first place. Then to trash the place is beyond comprehension.” I completely agree, Rocco. And for the record, Rocco’s the same cop who collared me for mailbox-busting way back when.

In regards to this Pond Hill house party, questions about where the alcohol came from will be asked and dozens of interviews will be done, according to reports. And I’m glad to see that the NGPD are ostensibly taking this very seriously, and it’s my belief that they’re going to send a serious message to these offenders. Can anyone say restitution?

But I must ask: would the same lengths be taken if the destroyed house wasn’t a million-dollar mansion? Are police being pushed by the fact that the victim is a very wealthy, and most likely, very powerful person in the North Greenbush community, and beyond? I mean, you’d have to have some level of serious influence to own an unoccupied house in Pond Hill, annual property taxes about 22K. And you don’t even live there. Let’s pretend the house in question is some converted-camp on Burden Lake, and the dollar value of the damage was far less but equal in scope. Is this still a front page story in every major paper in the area? Is it still the top story on all five TV-news outlets? Are police driven most by stories that carry the pressure of news coverage and public interest? I must ask.

My answer: I sure hope not. But maybe.

Case and point. A few years back when I was still living at home, our neighborhood was under the wrath of vehicle robbers. Basically, kids would climb into parked cars at night and loot whatever they could. One night they got my unlocked car for $300.00 left in the wallet. I was dumb, I know, enough said. Of course I called the cops. They made a report and that was that. Days later the vehicle robbers were overheard bragging about their conquests on the school bus. I was told this by several witnesses, including the bus driver, about this bragging. I told all this to the cops and nothing was done, not a single witness was interviewed or asked about these conversations. It was almost like the cops didn’t care. Sometime later the local media got hold of the story of these vehicles being robbed right in front of houses. Soon after that arrests were made. Just in time for the 6PM news. Go figure.

My point is a crime like this forces many questions to the surface, questions we don’t want to answer on a day-to-day basis. How does something like this happen? Why? What will become of this country’s future? Whatever happened to respect? How are police handling the situation? Where’s your kid at 11PM on a Friday night? I guess, like everything else in America, the teenage crime is getting bigger, bolder, faster. Ten years ago it was busting mailboxes with baseball bats. Now it’s breaking-and-entering then destroying million-dollar mansions. According to NGPD Capt. Robert Durivage, windows at the home had been knocked out, light fixtures and chandeliers were smashed and carpets had been urinated on. The extensive damages also included broken kitchen cabinets and wrecked counters, among other things. “The crime you see now, it's hard to even take its measure.”

I just wonder if that same thinking applies to all levels of society, not just the crimes that disrupt the rich and bring the biggest press coverage. I suppose we’ll wait and see. But my guess is we’ll learn the answer to that question the hard way.

Brian Huba

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