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Walking down Nostrand Ave, on a Saturday afternoon . . . 

Saw a black woman cop legging it up the Avenue, running across the street and down Hancock. 

Hancock’s a nice street of old brownstones, maybe some of the nicest in Bed-Stuy, built at a time when Bedord-Stuyvesant was home to Brooklyn’s middle and upper-middle and even upper classes. Anglos, Germans, Jews. A street that stayed middle class, even through the bad bad years in the 80’s and 90’s when Bed-Stuy was synonymous with ghetto. A friend of a friend  lived there for awhile and said there was so much hostility on the sreet from being white, that she had to move. 

Anyway, the black woman cop disappeared down Hancock, running up what looked like an alley halfway up the street. Then came one squad car, then two, sirens on, turning on Hancock, screeching to a halt and three or four white male cops jumping out of their cars and following the woman cop down the alley. 

Then came two more cars, then two more, until the whole bottom of the street was packed with squad cars. A black guy, maybe in his middle fourties, stood on the corner guiding the cars in. 

Then, suddenly, maybe ten more officers were legging it down Nostrand, following the other cops down Hancock into the alley. Big white guys, some of them so fat they could barely run. 

By now, I didn’t care if people yelled at me on the street for being white, I was too curious. I figured there had to have been a shooting or maybe some big robbery. Something. The alley was clear, but soon some cops came out, and ran down Hancock, evidently to block off another exit. An old guy on a stoop was pointing down the alley, showing the cops which direction the culprit had run and behind me, some teenagers were standing in their front yards, “Yo, that old man is ALWAYS finkin’ people out, yo – he’s just a FINK!’. People were out on their stoops all up and down the street, watching the show, but it was relaxed, and no one paid me any attention – in the middle of the melee, a white couple rode by on their bikes. 

Presently, the cops trailed out of the alley, some on their radios, some moving up and down the street to block off the entrances, but mostly they were relaxed, joking with each other. I walked back down Hancox in time to see a few cruisers circling the street. 

A lady came up. She was maybe in her 30’s, well-presented like maybe she worked in an office. She said she lived on the street, that she’d been there five years “and it ain’t the hood no more – it’s much more varied” giving me a pointed look on the last word. I asked her what was going on and she said it had been a kid who snatched someone’s chain. “Don’t even know why he’d want to do it. Not like you get any money for that anymore . . . not like in the 90’s when everyone wore them big gold chains . . . ”

There must have been a dozen squad cars, all for one kid who snatched a chain. Too much. That must have been one scared kid, when all those cops came after him. 

What a change from just threee years ago, when I was mugged on Clifton Place by two kids with a switchblade. It was the last day of school and the cops who came round said there’d been four muggings in their precint in the past hour, that I’d been lucky it had just been a blade because all the others had happened at gunpoint and you could tell they saw the worst of Bed-Stuy, probably the worst of humanity, every day of their working lives. Or fifteen years ago, when I’d been walking down Bedford on one of the random strolls I took in those days, and six kids had swarmed me – and the only thing that had saved me from getting robbed or worse, was the guy who came up and chased them off with a gun. He was a big guy, tough and ghetto hard, and he said he never left home without his gun, things were that bad, that just the week the before he’d been held up by two crackheads and shot one of them dead. “And I’ll shoot the other one too, if I find ‘im – I’m sick of those crazy motherfuckers.” 

No cops would have come then, even if I’d called them. 

So it’s amazing that now, even during the recession, Bed-Stuy, or that section of Bed-Stuy, has become important enough for a dozen squad cars to show up for one kid . . .