Readers — A few posts down we were discussing a questionable arrest for “child endangerment.” In this case, the parents had left their 9- and 6-year-olds waiting in the car while they ran into Walmart for what turned out to be half an hour. Vis a vis child safety: The windows were cracked, the doors were locked, the 6-year-old was sleeping and the 9-year-old was reading. The older child was also given a cell phone. Here is what one prosecutor wrote, which I found insightful:
I am a former prosecutor who worked for some time in abuse and neglect. I have raised two kids–very much alive, healthy, and active–to their early 20’s. If I had let every scenario that got played out in my courtroom define ‘reality’ for me I’d have never had children to begin with. Come to think of it, if I had let every criminal law case I was ever involved with in any manner define reality for me, I’d barricade my home and never leave it.
The ‘reality’ is that we run risks every minute we are alive. Which shall we, as individuals, change our behavior to avoid or minimize? And what risk taking behavior should we, collectively, criminalize?
The legislature of the State of NY has evidently seen fit to criminalize the ‘leaving’ of children ‘unattended’ in a parked automobile if the children are younger than a certain age. But that is just statute. An officer of the law has discretion to arrest or not; arrest is not mandatory and should not be. An officer has the discretion, and is indeed obligated, to exercise his or her judgment in each and every situation the officer encounters than might involve law breaking as to whether or not an arrest should be made.
In this instance, unless the readers of this blog are not receiving some key piece of information, no harm or damage resulted from the actions of these parents. The parent or parents were arrested not for something they did, but for the possibility that something harmful could occur. And did not.
I don’t see what good can or will result from this arrest. I do see that among the readers of this blog it is generating fear, anxiety, and resentment. I expect that these parents will never leave a kid of theirs alone anywhere, under ANY circumstances, ever again.
If that is considered a ‘good’ and a legitimate exercise of legislative and police power, then there you have it. To me, it sounds — in the very least — wacky and overblown, and perhaps grossly unfair, and even destructive.
The desire and impulse to make the world safe for each and every child is a good one, but obviously impossible to effect. Arrests such as these, in my opinion, deflect valuable (and expensive) police and governmental time and energies away from the myriad pressing dangers facing our children and young people…. Don’t even get me started on gang violence!
Thanks for it! I’d add that when we try to protect our kids from every possible “Worst Case” scenario, we forget that there is another worst case we ignore: Raising children who believe the world is so dangerous that they’d better not try to do anything on their own, ever. — Lenore