So I was leaving The Flower City Habitat for Humanity ReStore (755 Culver Rd.) after doing my Saturday afternoon grazing when a police officer (I think his name was W-something) came up to ask some questions. I had not witnessed a crime nor was I involved in one. But I was acting suspicious. See, I was riding a bicycle with a trailer to do my Saturday shopping. Officer W. said there have been problems with people on bicycles with toolboxes on the back and totes stealing copper pipe from houses.
Although I was highly irritated by being singled out, I only revealed that fact by asking if he had also stopped cars and asked if the occupants were involved with such crimes because cars can carry a lot more material. He was respectful and ginger about the whole 4th Amendment and all, and only asked questions. Obviously, though, if I had not answered openly, I am certain I would have been further suspected, detained, and harassed.
I mean, who gets stopped like this? Have you, dear reader, ever been stopped and questioned for no good reason? In my case, it was an unpleasant experience all around. I can see no "silver lining" in it at all: I was singled out for being different. And to add insult to injury, "different" in a way that promoted reuse of materials (the trailer is homemade and the bike was rebuilt from junk), healthy living, and a low impact on the world's resources.
Of course, I forgot to ask the perfect question: "how many people have been convicted of stealing copper pipe on bicycles?" I did comment that I thought this kind of theft in general is a relatively rare occurrence and he replied that "it happens more than you think" — a statement that seemed lacking in factual backing.
I guess I could find a lawyer to search cases and see just how prevalent the problem is, but as a start, I searched "copper pipe" theft on Google and came up with some 15,000 hits. A couple other attempts, like a search for "stole copper pipe" bicycle came up dry, finding only theft of copper pipe and bicycles, not with them. Likewise, searching "stole copper pipe" on Google's news search reveals only 55 hits — for the 29 year period from 1980 to 2009. By my guess, this is less of a problem than Officer W. thinks.
So I think back on the times when I've had non-trivial interactions with the police (i.e. more than just saying hello), none are clearly positive. Twice I've been through vehicle sticker checkpoints (and waved through), once through a breathalyzer checkpoint (blew far less than DUAI), and once when someone backed into my car (the cop failed to take an accurate report, omitting eye-witness evidence). And a few years ago I was terribly depressed and out for a walk and I was stopped by a cop because — and I swear this was not me — I matched the description of someone spotted trying to jump off a bridge in the area … that one I chalk up as just really really weird.
My conclusion is to have far fewer police. Sadly, we live in Mayor Former Police Chief's land and his solution to any problem is "more cops". I also realize that I'm either doing something very right or very wrong by daring to take visible action to help treat the planet better. It's just another notch in my being ejected from society — from a lay-off to being rejected for a mortgage refinance (before the *ahem* real crooks [hint: driving Lexus cars, not bikes with trailers] ruined everything), some other similar bumps along the way, and now this.
I might as well get used to it because there is absolutely nothing I can do about it.
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