Neighborhood Fear Monger

Almost every day, our local parents’ group email blast contains a report from a worried mom who has just called 911 about a “suspicious character.”

Today’s subject of alarm was a man with a lawn mower, walking door to door, asking if people wanted their lawns mowed.

A few days ago, a mother reported a man sitting in a car outside a playground. It didn’t seem as though he was doing anything, but the fact that he didn’t have kids with him prompted the mom to alert the police.

I suppose this level of vigilance should make me feel more comfortable in our new suburban home. But instead, it makes me feel like we’re living in some sort of police state. What if the man with the lawn mower was just a gentleman who was down on his luck, and legitimately wanted to cut grass?

Anyone who looks a bit out of place seems to frighten the locals here. But if you called the police every time you saw someone suspicious in London, you’d be on the phone with them all the time.

When we were living in West London, I regularly saw homeless people in the park, on the street, and outside our building. It never occurred to me to alert the authorities.

If I had, I’m sure they would have demanded why I was wasting their time. I once noticed a homeless person lying down on the sidewalk against the wall on the Strand, not far from the Savoy. I called 999, because I was afraid he was dead.

It turned out he was drunk, and had passed out. No one seemed very pleased with me for my phone call.

So unless someone is actively threatening violence, or has stopped breathing, I wonder why someone would involve the police. Since we’re new in town, I hope no one calls the police, reporting us as strangers they don’t recognize.

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