by Joe Kirkpatrick
In the city where I live, there has always been a long standing, fierce rivalry between the two local high school teams, the "Raiders" and the "Bears." This past year, some boys from the Raider's school went over to the Bear's school the night before the big game, and spray painted that schools Bear statue. Of course, the boys were later apprehended, but were eventually allowed to make restitution, rather than face criminal charges. There was public outcry over that, since one boy involved was the nephew of the local police chief. Now, I know none of the involved parties, but from what I could gather from reading various media accounts, none of the boys had been in any trouble with law enforcement prior to this incident. Unfortunately, even with so many major crimes unsolved, it seems to be the legal mindset to bring criminal charges for relatively minor acts of vandalism, despite the participants willingness to make restitution.
Now, I think what the boys did was wrong. They should not have done it. However, what affect would criminal charges have made on their future?
Back in 1968, five eighteen year old boys would go to Sunday evening church every week. One of the boys had a Pontiac convertible, and for some unknown reason, they decided after church to all get into that convertible, and drive through neighborhoods grabbing full garbage cans, and slinging the garbage all over the streets and lawns. They had done this for several weeks and gotten away with it, but then one Sunday night, a car started chasing them. The chase went on for over a mile, but eventually, the car chasing them seemingly gave up. Shaken, the boys decided to call it a night, and the driver was going to take them home one by one. When he pulled up at the first boys house at 12:15 AM, the boys father was sitting on the front porch waiting for him. Evidently, the boy driving the car's father was a ham radio operator, and his ham "call letters" were on his license plate. It so happened the driver of the chase car was also a ham radio operator, and had already gone home and called the boy driving the car's father, who in turn, had called the parents of the other boys, as well. The parents took the boys back up to "the scene of the crime," and worked several hours in the middle of the night making sure the street and yards were thoroughly cleaned.
What if the police had been called? What if all five boys, each of which had participated equally, been arrested and charged with vandalism? All five boys were supposed to leave for college within a week - one the next morning. Back then, at many colleges, an arrest would have disqualified the applicant for admission.
What ever happened to the five boys in that car? One of the boys got a college degree in psychology, and went on to work in construction and industry. One achieved his doctoral degree and is a professor at Georgia Tech in Atlanta. One is CPA and Director of Finance for a major metropolitan government in the Southeast. One, unfortunately, died of cancer at 42, but at that time was one of the youngest FBI agents in history to be the managing agent of a metropolitan office of the FBI (Memphis,TN). The fifth one was me, who also went on to graduate from college, was a social worker/counselor for the State of Tennessee, and later went on to own seven businesses in two states.
What we did was wrong. It was stupid and idiotic. But, most every teenager acts stupid and idiotic. Should a relatively minor offense really leave a mark on their record that could follow them for the rest of their lives? I have wondered many times how my life would have been altered if the police had been called that night.