Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Another reminder that I don’t live in Mayberry May 11, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 6:37 AM
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YESTERDAY MORNING I was obliviously writing on my computer when I noticed a young man standing directly in front of the sidewalk leading to my front door. Now, lots of pedestrians pass my home. But, typically, they do not stand and stare at my house. And typically, they are not wearing black baseball caps tipped to the side nor do red bandannas sprout from their back pockets.

I was not born yesterday. I am well aware of gang colors and attire.

But this man was committing no crime by standing there on a public sidewalk.

However, my intuition told me to keep an eye on him and to let him know I had seen him.

So I walked into the living room, making sure he spotted me through the open front door. I considered slamming the interior door and locking the dead bolt in place. But I figured with a locked screen door, traffic passing by and my cell phone within reach, I was safe. Besides, I didn’t want him to think I was intimidated or afraid.

So I returned to my office, until I heard voices. I walked back to the living room to find the man, now joined by a young woman, sitting on my front steps within feet of me.

I didn’t really think, just strode over to the screen door and boldly blurted, “What are you doing on my front steps?”

The guy said something I couldn’t hear due to the traffic noise and my hearing loss.

But the woman sneered, “Sitting here.”

They didn’t move.

I didn’t budge.

For a split second I worried that I had made a grave mistake by confronting them.

But then they slowly got up and ambled across the street. I watched as the man grabbed at the woman’s arm and she pulled back. I was fully prepared to call 911 to report an assault if the situation escalated. But it didn’t and the couple continued on, separately, until they entered a nearby house.

My husband and I have called 911 before—once in the dead of a cold winter night during an assault and once when a young man pounded on our door seeking protection from a throng of would-be attackers pursuing him.

We don’t live in a high crime neighborhood, like Faribault has a high crime neighborhood. But our community is certainly not immune to serious crime.

Many years ago, two blocks from my house, a man was stabbed in a drug-related case. I watched as a SWAT team searched my block for the murder weapon, a knife.

Last year the SWAT team drove past my house en route to a meth house bust three blocks away.

For years, suspected drug dealers lived across the street from me.

Gang graffiti has been painted onto buildings, fences, stop signs and more as close as directly across the street from me.

I’ve attended several level three sex offender meetings with one of the offenders moving in two blocks away.

Faribault is not Mayberry R.F.D. And yesterday I was reminded of that once again.

ACCORDING TO INFORMATION published in the 2010 Faribault Police Department’s annual report, the Rice County Gang Suppression Unit “has identified 50 gangs and approximately 350 gang members with ties to the City of Faribault. Of the 350, 150 are confirmed gang members, meaning they meet at least three of ten state defined criteria.”

READERS, HOW WOULD YOU have handled the situation I faced yesterday with the suspicious young man staring at my house and then sitting on my front steps with the young woman? Should I have ignored them, done something differently?

Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling