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JP voices: Attempted mugging is an eye-opening experience

Posted by Roy Greene  May 11, 2012 09:00 AM

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On a recent Wednesday night, I was the victim of an attempted mugging.

I was walking the dog just after 11 p.m., and a man jumped in front of me pointing what looked like a gun.

Now I know what I would do in a “situation like that.”

I screamed.

Like my life depended on it.

I started with “WHAT THE ...!” and finished with “HELP! POLICE!” I must have scared him as much as he scared me because he took off down the street like a bolt. I stood there for what felt like a few minutes in fear and disbelief.

I was standing a block from my house.

Now I know what I would do.

I brought the dog home, and following a few minutes of hyperventilating I called the police. After giving the 911 operator the details, I waited for officers to arrive.

My building must be hard to locate because the operator called back and asked me to stand outside.

Imagining the mugger coming back, I stayed just inside my doorway.

Now I know what I would do.

As I waited for the police I thought: “screaming? Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis, Harrison Ford, Sylvester Stallone, and Angelina Jolie must be laughing in their rocking chairs.” OK, not Angelina, obviously. But karate chopping or otherwise punching the assailant never occurred to me. It wasn’t until much later that I browsed the Web for “what to do when” suggestions.

The website notes eight strategies; seven of which involve striking the mugger. Finally, the writer advises “scream at the top of your lungs, [and] try to attract as much attention as possible.”

The Boston police recommend using a loud whistle to frighten off the attacker. In a pinch, a scream will do as well, they suggest.

“If threatened, use the whistle to signal residents for help. Yelling “Fire!” “Help!” or “Rape!” are ways of drawing attention and alerting people of your situation.”
Disappointingly, not a single person emerged from their homes to help or find out what was going on. My dog, a Bichon Frise, also was useless.

No one was harmed – me, the dog, nor the mugger – during this incident, so I must count that as a blessing. Especially given how distrustful and aggressive and deadly, people have been behaving towards each other these days.

Now I know what I would do.

The police officers took my statement and were respectful and sympathetic. Using every ounce of intellect and experience gleaned from years of watching “Law and Order” on television, I tried to describe the man as best as I could. Although it was nighttime and somewhat dark on this street, it still amazes me how much I didn’t see.

“Any scars, tattoos; did he walk with a limp?” asked the officer. “I don’t know,” I answered honestly.

One question does bother me. About an hour after the incident, a sergeant stationed at the local precinct called to check the details of my story and give advice. He said I could apply easily for a permit to carry Mace. I’ll admit, I’m giving that some thought.

But when he asked whether or not the “the assailant was homeless?” I considered the question for a millisecond and responded, “How am I supposed to know that? The “homeless” don’t all wear the same uniform and look alike.”

Unlike the police…

Now I know what I would do.

Since speaking to the sergeant, I’ve been questioning my memory of the gun. It was dark and heavy and had a military-style look to it. I remember the barrel touching my arm; that’s how close it was.

But could it have been a fake? I think the sergeant assumed I had mistaken a prop for the real thing. I’ve decided it doesn’t really matter. My perception that I was in danger was accurate.

I’m not saying this incident initiates me into some club of people who have been attacked on the street. We have neighbors throughout the city who feel as though they and their children can’t leave the immediate vicinity of their homes.

So I’m trying to keep this in perspective.

And I won’t stop walking the dog along this particular street either. Years ago I adopted a philosophy I believe I read in the book “Death and Dying” by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, namely that “fear of death is fear of life.”

But I’m not looking for trouble. When I walk at night, I’ll try and find a friend to join me.

Now I know what I will do.

Dave Goodman is senior staff writer of Open Media Boston and an independent radio producer. He lives in Jamaica Plain.

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