...General: Life Lessons

Crime and Punishment

For undergrad, I attended Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia—an area known for its prestigiously high crime record. Its rough reputation can be derived from the spike in crime during the late 1980s into the mid 2000s. In 2005, Morgan Quitno Press ranked Richmond as the fifth most dangerous city in the U.S. Two years later, I moved to the bustling, burglarizing state capital for school. After its all-time-high record—more accurately, low—in 2005, due to increased law enforcement, crime rate began to decline, decreasing to 49th most dangerous city in 2008. So to put it gently, Richmond—including the VCU campus, and closely surrounding premises—hasn’t had the best track record.

Before I left for my freshman year, my mom strongly urged me to buy a small bottle of pepper spray. I couldn’t picture myself A) having an occasion to use such a weapon or, B) if an unfortunate occasion should arise, having the conviction or simply the common sense to use it. Nonetheless, I bought the gadget to satisfy my mother’s small condition upon sending me off to our state’s crime capital.

One boring night, early into my freshman year as I was laying in my bottom bunk bed watching some trashy MTV show, I got the urge to test out the unopened mace that I had stowed in my desk drawer. My dorm room was a petite 10-foot cube that I shared with one other girl. Completely unaware of the effects of the spray, and with no other space in-mind to test the venom, I decided to squirt a light spray into my open-lid, plastic, pink trashcan that sat about a foot away from the head of my bed. After the task was accomplished, I put the lock back on the cap, and lay back down in bed. Minutes later, my throat began to feel scratchy, my nose a bit runny, and my eyes teary. It probably took me a good twenty minutes to realize the source of my sudden sickness. I opened the single window in my room, and headed to a friend’s dorm to recover and wait for the potency that I had polluted my room with to die down. So, unfortunately, the one and only time I used pepper spray in my lifetime was against myself.

Even more unfortunately, the above experience was not the only offense committed against me during my four years in Richmond. As campus security and Richmond police cracked down, Richmond’s criminal activity continued to decline and between 2004 and 2009 the crime rate had decreased by 47 percent.

Sophomore year, during my spring lacrosse season (2009) I decided to throw a mixer at my house for the boys and girls club lacrosse teams. By sophomore year I had moved out of the dorms and into a four-bedroom townhouse with three friends. Two of my roommates were away the weekend that I threw the mixer, the absence of whom translated to less security than we usually had when we hosted parties. But I thought the lessened precautions to be more trivial than usual since it was a social gathering for a more precise group of peoples and not an all-inclusive party.

Well, my estimation was incorrect. The shindig was fun and after the majority of people had left, some of my friends stayed behind to help me clean up. After cleaning-duty was over I said goodbye to my remaining guests and went to my room. My first instinct was to get on my computer to check my facebook and other addictive websites, but I couldn’t find it. I had remembered leaving it on my desk, but it was no longer there. My roommate and I scoured the entire house to no avail. I tried to deny the reality that some asshole actually had the malice to steal my computer. It felt like the ultimate assault on my privacy, personal property, and every offense in between.

In 2009, the city of Richmond had about 5,822 reported cases of larceny and theft. Sad to say I was the victim of one of those cases, but such things happen in life. Though I reported the incident to the police immediately, the detectives never found the thief.

I hadn’t backed up my computer—obviously, a horrible mistake—so all my documents, music, and photos not posted to facebook were lost. I was stranded in the primetime of finals season with most of my class notes gone. Luckily, my professors and classmates were understanding and gave me their notes to prep for my exams. My mom lent me her laptop to use for the remainder of the semester. I was fortunate enough to have a reinforcement team to support me, but I felt a combination of sensible, sentimental, and superficial losses.

Nowadays, our electronic gadgets are our most sacred possessions. We are inseparable from them and because of this dependency it feels earth-shattering to be robbed—in my case, literally, but in general, figuratively—of your reliable, robotic refuge.

But there’s always light at the end of the tunnel. Fortunately, I was prepared with renter’s insurance because, as you can gather from the theme of this entire blog, I am accident-prone. The insurance claim check arrived right around the time the Apple Store held their back-to-school promotion. The funds covered the purchase of a new MacBook Pro, which—due to the timely deals—came with a free Cannon printer, free iPod Touch, and a discount on a collection of Adobe Creative Suite products.

I like to believe that cheaters never prosper and that bad things never happen to good people, but reality is not so justly cut-and-dry. Good people may, at times, succumb to cheating, and prosperous people are commonly fraudulent. I wouldn’t call myself a liar, but I have lied and I wouldn’t classify myself as a crook, but I have cheated. I guess the ultimate deciding factor is penalty, official and amoral. Growing up, my parents disciplined by not only punishing wrongdoings, but also by instilling ethical, conscientious values. If consequence is lacking, no wonder there is chaos.

Though Richmond has a record of criminal activities, it is not an unsafe place. If you are negligent, every place is hazardous, and if you are vigilant, anywhere is protected. Richmond officials enforce laws and surveillance in an effort to dissuade felons and protect overall safety in a way that has proven successful. I didn’t protect my house and my property with enough caution and there for I was robbed. It’d be nice if there was a unanimous outlook to not fuck your fellowman over, unfortunately this is not so. I do however believe there to be a common mindset that sustains morality. Aid from my professors, peers, and parents made this intrusive offense just an intermediate inconvenience. For how bad things may seem at times, they could always be worse.




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