Crime is a problem in the United States.
Depending on your station in life you are allowed to get away with certain types of crimes. The rich are allowed to commit financial fraud, but the middle class isn't. The middle-class is allowed to use drugs, but the poor aren't. The poor are allowed to beat their wives and siblings, but the rich and the middle class are not.
And when crimes cross class lines, enforcement of laws is often based on skin color. A lower-class brown-skinned guy caught with an ounce of reefer is always prosecuted differently than a lower-class white guy caught with an ounce of reefer.
It's simply the American way; and I don't see it changing any time soon.
We also collectively consider different crimes more or less appalling than others. Rape, child abuse, and torture are decried, universally, as wholly unacceptable. Drunk driving, drug trafficking, and assault and battery are not tolerated. Prostitution, bank fraud, and drug consumption are often discussed as if they are not crimes at all.
Then there are degrees of crimes. Some laws are actually written around the severity of the crime committed. There is first-degree murder and second-degree murder. Homicide and vehicular homicide, and then there's manslaughter. There's assault, assault and battery, assault with intent to kill, assault of a police officer, assault of a police officer with intent to kill, all of which are treated differently. There is grand larceny and petty larceny, and then there is shoplifting and embezzlement.
All crimes are rooted in the Judeo-Christian notions of sin, the seven deadly sins: pride, lust, anger, greed, gluttony, envy and sloth. Although the non-religious or anti-religious will argue that there is no connection, that argument holds no water. And our varying degrees of crimes is rooted in our innate sense of fairness and compassion. Well, unless you are a "conservative," then the notions of fairness apply only to you and others like you, but not to others -- those who are different. Generally, though, as a species we temper our disdain for crime with a sense of compassion.
Even the most brutal law enforcement officials honor some unspoken and unwritten codes. They are pretty obvious when you bother to think of them, and aren't written down anywhere.
If a home is raided for illegal activity, generally the men are arrested and the women are left behind to care for the children; even if the women are believed to be part of the criminal enterprise. It's just sort of the decent thing to do. It's also easier than processing the kids through the morass that is our failed children's services system.
When sick and/or elderly people are arrested, accommodation is made for them. This is the decent thing to do.
Pregnant women are also often afforded some leeway when crime and punishment is being negotiated. It's just the decent thing to do.
Even at our worst, our anger and frustration about crimes and criminals is generally tempered by a certain amount of decency and compassion.
In a Dickensian incident in Honolulu, Hawaii (and is there a place less Dickensian than Hawaii?), a pregnant woman and her husband were arrested for failure to pay for the sandwich the pregnant woman ate while shopping at Safeway.
They were running late, they had difficulty finding their way around their new community, and having missed her meal the pregnant woman was famished. This is biology, not culture. While shopping, she opened a two dollar sandwich, put the wrapper in her basket for payment upon checking out, and continued her tasks.
At check-out the sandwich wrapper was not scanned and the couple left the store without paying for the sandwich.
Upon exiting, they were set-upon by a security guard who pointed out they had failed to pay for the sandwich. They were embarrassed and apologized, went back into the store and attempted to pay for the sandwich.
At that point, the security guard and the manager explained that they would not accept payment for any item that had left the store, and that they would be charged with shoplifting.
They spent hours at the store. Eventually the police arrived to arrest these dangerous criminals, handcuff them, and take them to the station.
A-ha, another little detail. Their two-year-old daughter was also with them and the child was taken into custody and inserted in the child services system.
For a sandwich.
Have you read Fyodor Dostoyevsky's "Crime & Punishment"? If you haven't read it, but perhaps have heard about it, please note that this situation feels as barbaric as that story.
Safeway stores has a policy that is so inhumane and lacking any sense of human decency that they would have a family torn apart, no matter how temporarily, over the cost of a sandwich.
Pregnant mom says sandwich arrest was 'horrifying'
This really happened. In America.
I went to the Safeway website and wrote to them. You can to, by using this link: Contact Safeway
Are you serious? You had a pregnant woman arrested when she forgot to pay for her sandwich?
Even if she WAS stealing it, what company has a person arrested for a two dollar sandwich, then watches as the authorities take her child from her?
And your response is that you are "investigating"?
You need to fire everyone at that store who came within hearing distance of the incident and come-up with some kind of remuneration that YOU would accept if a store security guard turned your life upside-down over a two dollar misunderstanding!
You should be ashamed of yourselves.
I hope you will write.
More importantly, I hope you will stop shopping at Safeway.
Kyle G. Brixton