Doom and gloom

Today’s FMM (Friday Morning Meeting) training consisted of a local police officer coming in to help us deal with the issues of safety and crime in the places where we work, as well as helping the kids deal with their own issues about it when it comes up.

At least, that was the idea. What actually seemed to happen was a round up of just how insurmountable the problems are that we are facing. He did acknowledge that we are doing good, and that without us the work wouldn’t get done and it would be even worse. But you get the feeling, listening to him, that even with everyone working together, it’s like trying to stop a hurricane by blowing hard in the opposite direction.

Now I don’t for a moment believe that was his intention. In fact, he seemed quite rueful that that was where the tone of his talk seemed to be going. But really, when you’re talking about how to judge when it’s best to get a club full of elementary kids to hit the deck or run for cover in a gunfight, how “official” LA and other gangs are starting to come in and recruit the wannabes and talking about drug busts going from baggies to multiple kilos of coke in just a few years, it’s hard to get any other picture than one of descending chaos that can only be expected to get worse before it gets better.

One of the issues that seems to be adding unneeded drag to the whole situation is the fact that Asheville is a retirement/tourism town, which means that there is a distinct divide between rich, upper class folks who already have financial independence coming in to buy second or summer homes (as well as a growing group of “fix it and flip it” folks who are riding that wave), and a vastly larger and growing pool of people who can’t find work that pays enough to pay for the ever-increasing rent, let alone a home of their own. One of the initiatives they want to try is putting drug dealers into jobs instead of prison. But when even a relatively good job with benefits still won’t get you much more than a crappy rental, there’s no real incentive for the dealers to take them up on a program that’s going to be starting them in the burger-flipping range (assuming they can find such a job open) and winding them right back up in the same public housing they were pulled out of, only as a poor, barely-making it renter with no status instead of a rich self-made entrepreneur with props and cred a mile wide. Yeah. Good luck with that.

He did offer some helpful advice throughout the talk. It’s just not the kind of advice you ever hope to hear. Stuff like the safest place in the housing apts should gunfire break out, and how it’s probably better to run rather than hide these days if a shooter makes it onto campus, since they’ve gone from taking hostages (which are only useful when alive) to killing as many people as they can before they’re caught and killed themselves. And that there’s just not much we can do to make it better, except to be there to provide a role model for the few kids who are young enough, smart enough or lucky enough to pay attention.

Sigh.

And I was feeling so good about our work. Now it just seems like we’re band-aiding a gushing arterial wound, and not even getting that stuck on properly. I know I shouldn’t let it get to me. It is merely one man’s view, after all. OTOH, this man has been in Drugs and SWAT for a very long time and has had a very good view from which to report.

I truly value his opinions and his take on things. Really, I do. I just could have lived a long time, very happily, without hearing them.

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