Brooks: This is the wrong time to reduce police force

"I'm desperate," he said, even before he'd fully stepped into my office.

"Tell me about it," I thought.

I had just sat down to crunch some payroll numbers, and desperation was exactly what I was feeling.

However, the look on my neighbor's face, and his large frame standing in my doorway, overshadowed the numbers. He was agitated.

"I just reached a point where my only two options were to hurt somebody or come see you."

"Well, then, I am glad you came to see me," I replied.

He breathed and sat down, letting his frustration pour out.

My neighbor has five young children. He lives in an apartment and rents out one room to make ends meet. He works. He goes to church. He loves his wife. He has made some bad choices in the past but has been on a good track in the last few years.

Everything is good except for his neighbors. They smoke weed all day with a big group of friends who hang out in the alley and urinate outside of his window. When he calls the cops and they drive by, the group scatters and then comes right back.

He has tried talking to his neighbor directly, appealing to the well-being of his children and the close quarters in which they all live.

He has called the building owner on several occasions. Nothing changed.

Once, after he had called the police, his tires were slashed the next day. The latest blow was that his tenant was moving out because he could no longer take the constant aggravation, leaving my neighbor in an economic lurch.

This bad neighbor was affecting everything, and my friend was thinking about taking matters into his own hands.

He felt desperate.

According to Webster's, desperate means "giving no grounds for hope; employing extreme measures in an attempt to escape defeat or frustration."

This was the emotional place my neighbor had arrived at. He had no grounds for hope and was considering extreme measures, violent measures.

I stared at him, recognizing his despair, wanting to avoid vigilante justice, and uncertain of what else to try. I thought of how thin our Police Department is spread right now. I thought of how our leaders push for an even smaller police force.

I remembered how the affordable housing continues to go to seniors, despite the reports prioritizing families. I saw in my neighbor's slouched shoulders the consequences of policy decisions made. I felt his desperation and hopelessness.

I did not know what to do, but I knew that I did not want to be one more person on a long list of people who did not respond to my neighbor's concerns.

I told him I would do the two things I am good at. I will pray and I will connect him to someone.

We prayed together for God to intervene and provide in the situations where we had lost hope. And I called the area lieutenant. I had to leave a message.

I hung up, wondering what is going to happen to our city if our police force keeps dwindling. When will we lift up our heads from crunching our own numbers and hear the desperation of our neighbors?

My neighbor's interruption shook me out of my own worries and gave me perspective once again.

CRISSY BROOKS is co-founder and executive director of Mika Community Development Corp., a faith-based nonprofit in Costa Mesa, where she lives.

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