This isn’t the area of her childhood. It’s not suitable for anyone’s childhood, she says.
Her voice – a churning mixture of trepidation, desperation, courage – and fury.
This isn’t a place you can bring children up in, anymore, she says. They can’t even play outside. They are shot in crossfire.
They are raped, murdered. There are empty parks. The sidewalks are quiet. The children here, in this neighbourhood, are recruited by drug lords, their vulnerability preyed upon. “From young,” she says. “We have 12 and 14 year olds wielding guns. They are the runners, selling and collecting drugs. When I was their age, I was climbing trees,” she says.
This resident called because she has spent years wondering why nobody does anything. She asks to remain anonymous, fearing for her life in the ongoing violence.
“I am always wondering why there isn’t enough done – and I mean enough to stop it,” she says.
“Do the people outside of Ocean View even know what happens here? We hear that there are not enough resources to police the area, and we know, we really do know that other places also have problems. But, it’s hard to imagine a place that needs help more than we do,” she says.
She knows who the drug dealers are. By name. She knows where they live. Most people know who the dealers are, she says. “But do you know what happened to the witnesses in the park murder last year?” she asks.
“Witnesses started disappearing,” she says. “They were killed off. It is no wonder people won’t speak up, or use their names. Speaking up makes you a target,” she says.
Then the desperation. “But we are targets anyway. Old people are trapped in their homes. So are the children. Those who work, leave home looking over their shoulders. And you don’t know who to trust. It doesn’t matter if you grew up with that person. They could be part of the gangs now.”
She describes the fear felt by those who are looking from their windows, by people who see what happens, but are too terrified to say anything, lest they be next. The children lose siblings, playmates, friends. They lose mothers and fathers, aunties and uncles. Not just to death, but to the taut line of drugs and the turf wars over them.
The caller won’t share her name but she is speaking out, she says, because she has watched many members of her community being reeled in to crime and prostitution, through the drugs.
“It is not that we have bad people here. We simply have a bad situation – and it’s sucking the life of our next generation away. What they consider to be normal, would have been a nightmare to me at their age,” she says.
There’s a pause, and she says: “It is a nightmare to me, now.”
She describes the reality of addicted parents and children and ailing grandparents trying to hold their lives together in the face of the decline of all they hold dear. Weary, and trying to raise their lost children’s, lost children. And she speaks about the rest; regular, warm-hearted, salt of the earth people living as peacefully as they can in the clamp of this crime.
People who want nothing more than to walk safe streets, raise their children well, pass down the good morals taught by their parents.
People who want to hear laughter from the parks and smile at neighbours. She knows they are out there, in far higher numbers than the criminal element. She also knows the numbers game changes when your captors carry guns and have no conscience about pulling the trigger.
She wants to know what to do, who to turn to, where to go, who to speak to. “We are living like hostages, every day. We are frozen. We need help. And its so bad, we don’t even know where to turn to, for that help.”