Back in the day I did Crime watch when it first started. And that's really when I started to learn about how Chinatown was run. To the outsider, even to the outsider who lives in Chinatown, you assume that it is a neighborhood where people live and work. Well for instance let's take JP. I'm pretty sure a lot of the people who own restaurants in JP also live in JP. I could be wrong... but that's what I would assume. And it's what I assumed about Chinatown too. But it actually isn't the case. Anyway, I learned this doing Crime Watch.
So a lot of the people on Crime Watch did not live in Chinatown, but they owned businesses in Chinatown or worked in Chinatown. Yeah some just had their regular crappy job, but they did crime watch and were more involved in Chinatown than say.. .Canton, where they lived. That was kind of bizarre to me at the time.
But now I am sort of one of those people. I live in JP but I write the Chinatown Blog.
Crime Watch was a great idea. Tony Yee sold it to me like this. You make it safe for people to come in and go to the businesses. Therefore the businesses make money. Therefore the community benefits.
But after a while I felt like being on crime watch was just picking on homeless people and making young black kids either angry at you (for existing) or uncomfortable (for walking near them) But the way I always saw it... yes you are free to walk down the street wandering aimlessly in a large group of kids that is blocking the sidewalk and... aren't I also free to walk down that same street?
I just realized that there was something inherently antagonistic about the little vest we wore though. Not only that, but actual criminals totally knew we weren't cops, didn't have guns, and basically couldn't do much when it came down to it.
I figured there was another way.
I started just doing sprints and practicing Kung Fu in this Back alley behind the CCBA (which is now where One Greenway is so that is soon going to be one of the safest freaking blocks in Chinatown) but back then it was just dark and people would go back there to do drug deals.
Being dressed in "street" clothes which also looked off.
I mean I would tie a shirt around my head like a bandana. So I looked like a thug... but then I didn't walk or act like one. I did not have that slow lazy walk. Instead I was doing sprints. Plus I was white. In other words, I looked like someone trying to look like a thug but maybe I was some sort of law enforcement. And for that I had people coming up to me explaining that they weren't doing anything illegal. Basically they thought I was undercover. But when I wore the vest, they knew I was nothing.
However dressing like this might make tourists nervous too.. and the truth is a lot of stuff happens in Chinatown during the day.
"Are you going to quit your job to do Crime Watch?" asked someone else who was really into it.
And now that I don't have a job, I don't go in to do it.
In fact one of the memories that really made me quit was this homeless Hispanic guy covered in bugs lying on the ground. I told him in Spanish that the police were coming over (cause they were) and this particular cop was mean. I wanted him to leave before something happened. A bunch of old Chinese guys were just standing around looking at this poor guy lying there, maybe injured and laughing at him. This lack of compassion really disgusted me. I tried to lift him up and out of the way. But then the cop came over and used his tricks. The first thing he did was smile and act real friendly the way a bully does while stepping on the guy's fingers. He cried out in pain. Then he took out handcuffs and waved them back and forth.
"It will be a weekend in jail... today's Friday."
Now I'm sure there is method and reason for this behavior. Maybe it works. Whatever. But I didn't sign up for crime watch to pick on the weak.
I always thought that, you know how every movie about Chinatown always has the stereotypes on display. Some are bad (prostitution and gambling) but some are good (Lion Dance, Dragon Dance and Kung Fu)
So what if you have a bunch of people walking around doing Kung Fu or Dragon dance or holding class outside or jogging around in a Kung Fu outfit or Cos play or whatever. And they were the crime watch. Then they could really watch instead of intimidate and report back and also intervene if something was happening. You know, if someone was getting sexually assaulted and suddenly, even if you had 20 twelve year old girls in Chinese Folk Dance outfits right there... even they could intervene right? I'm not talking vigilante justice here.
But at the same time, these epople dressed up so festively, is good for tourism.
It's a thought right?