Walking about in any urban neighborhood, one becomes acutely aware of fences. Few can be identified as barriers capable of excluding determined invaders. Most are symbolic boundaries, markers of limits that are expected to be recognized by those who live nearby. I have seen fences so tall that even the most agile cannot gain easy access to the yard, but are these 100% effective crime barriers the best fences? Are not the best fences those that acknowledge both the need for privacy and the importance of community? Can a fence be both friendly and effective? What about a fence dripping with roses or overrun with bougainvillea? Such a fence provides beauty for the neighborhood but also deters fence-hoppers – no one enjoys being scratched up by thorns. . .
I turned abruptly to the left, looked for oncoming traffic and began to cross the street. I was in the middle of the street when I heard a cry. The Hispanic man who had passed by my gate, rolling his bicycle down the sidewalk, groceries attached to the handlebars, called out with a loud voice He has a gun! Call the police.
I instantly pulled my cell phone from my pocket and dialed 911, and as soon as the man in the black hoodie saw my phone, he moved quickly down the street, turned on 11th and headed towards Campbell St. It took over two minutes to reach the Oakland police and another two or three minutes for a patrol car to arrive. By that time, of course, the armed robber-in-waiting had disappeared, but nonetheless, I am glad we called the police, glad we filed the report. I am tired of these thugs with their guns. I know the only effective fences, friendly or not, we can erect between them and us are fences built of courage. We must be brave enough to say NO to the thugs, to look to others about us, and say HELP. I also know that the thugs can blast through those invisible fences with real fire power, but we have to take that chance. When we hear our neighbors saying HELP, there should never be any hesitation. If we reach out across invisible fences and help, we fend off crime. Robbers are cowards; we who believe in community are not.
Community gives us strength.