Friday, June 24, 2005

Filth In the City

This is one of those news stories that makes you sick to your stomach:

She is from India. She barely speaks English. She is 59 years old. And now she is a rape victim in Pittsburgh following an unsettling daylight abduction.
It is an unthinkable event for anyone to endure, much less someone thousands of miles from home who hardly speaks the language.
She has only been here for about two years. Welcome to America. Welcome to Pittsburgh.

The woman is distraught, Pittsburgh police Sgt. Shirley Epperson said, but at the same time relieved: Detectives yesterday arrested a suspect, four days -- almost to the hour -- after the assault.

Robert Hawkins, 42, of Garfield was charged with rape, kidnapping, two counts of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, robbery, unlawful restraint and simple assault. Detectives continue to investigate whether anyone else was involved.

At the scene of the crime, someone witnessed the abduction and tried to intervene:
A passerby saw the assault, ran up to the van and began screaming at the man to stop.
This led to some very impressive police work on the case:

The police sex assault squad gave the incident a high priority.

Epperson assigned all 14 of her detectives, who also handle child abuse and missing persons cases. There are relatively few rapes in Pittsburgh compared to other types of serious crimes. Last year, 99 rapes were reported, down from 136 in 2003.

They brought in an interpreter from the University of Pittsburgh who speaks Hindi. They created a composite sketch. They got help from a witness to the abduction. And they found the van after receiving a partial license plate.

Police officers on patrol spotted the vehicle outside the family support center of the Garfield Jubilee Association, a Christian-based community development corporation.

Police said the van was not reported stolen but acknowledged that Hawkins was associated with someone who had access to a key.

On Wednesday, a witness picked Hawkins' photo out of an eight-shot photo display provided by investigators.

One can't help applauding the police for the excellent investigative work that went into apprehending the rapist, and also give a shout out to the witnesses who aided them. But a part of me cries out in anger that we need police who specialize in crimes like this. Many people come to the city because it's cheap, or because it's close to work, or because there is a particular community in which they can feel comfortable while adjusting to a new situation. That's how it was for the woman from India. Coming to America was probably a very positive thing for her. She didn't expect to be confronted by a living, breathing symptom of urban decay.

When the Garfield section of the city makes news, it is often crime-related, usually a drive-by shooting. My mother was born and raised in Garfield in a more civilized day. I still have a few relatives there. The neighborhood has changed a lot in the last fifty years. This man is probably not atypical of a latter-day Garfield resident. In fact, he seems to be very much a late-comer:
Epperson, who revealed little information about how detectives developed Hawkins as a suspect, said he was wanted on two warrants from Lexington, Ky., for nonpayment of child support.
Not only did he have problems in his own background before coming here, but he seems to have gotten himself involved with more trouble along the way:

Also arrested was Hawkins' girlfriend, Michelle Reid, 43, who was charged with drug possession after police found suspected crack cocaine in the house.

If this bunch has been operating under the influence of drugs, there may be no telling how much the guy has done in the past. Was this his first rape? Has he committed crimes of this sort before? That's up to the police to determine.

Right now, we should all be glad that this filth has been removed from the city streets.

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