i didn't tattle

After what feels like weeks of rain, today was a truly nice day, nice enough to take Daniel to the park. After we'd been there for an hour or so, a car full of teenagers pulled up. They waited a while, maybe hoping we'd leave, then finally disembarked (probably realizing we weren't going anywhere soon) and walked down to the bench near the climbing equipment. I noticed one of them was carrying a frisbee very carefully, as though it was holding something precious that shouldn't be spilled. They were trying pretty hard to appear nonchalant, but it was obvious to me what was going on.

I tried pretty hard to ignore them, which wasn't hard to do when we were several hundred yards away from them, but eventually Daniel wanted to go back to the climbing equipment, right next to bench where the teenagers were. After a few minutes, I was uncomfortable enough with the situation that I told Daniel we needed to head home for a diaper change and a snack. He really did need a diaper change and a snack, so it was just as well that we left, but I just didn't want to be there and I didn't want my kids to be there. Daniel and Anya are way too young to be influenced by a few teenagers surreptitiously rolling joints, but it still bothered me. And it really bothered me that every other word out of their mouths was either "shit" or "fuck" and that they were well within hearing range of a child who can repeat just about every word that he hears.

So I used the diaper/snack excuse and left. I thought about saying something to those kids, something like "You know, this park is used by a lot of small children, and I don't appreciate you bringing your drugs here in the middle of the morning." I also thought about calling the police to report them. In the end, I didn't do either of those things. There were five of them, and they were older teenagers, at least 16 or 17 years old. They didn't appear hostile, but then, I was pretty much defenseless and I didn't want to put us at risk. The park is secluded from the street by a lot of trees and wooded area, making it a nice shady place to play on warm days and, of course, an ideal place to smoke some weed if you don't want to be seen by a passing car. I actually did look up the Madison police in the phone book, but there are about 50 different numbers and I didn't know which to call. "Narcotics" seemed a little extreme, and all the others weren't appropriate (traffic violations, parking tickets, emergency...obviously, none of those were right.) Plus, I knew if they got caught they would know I reported them, and even if they don't know my name, I live in the neighborhood.

Did I do the right thing? Or was it the cowardly thing? Should I have confronted them? Should I have called the police? I truly don't care that people smoke pot in general, but I do not like to see it in a public park, especially at 10:30 in the morning. (Gross.) What do you think?


Steph said…
I would have felt threatened too, if I were in your shoes, and I'm not for a second defending the inappropriateness of their behavior in a public park. But I do think you did the right thing in not reporting them. I guess I feel that way because I think the legal repercussions for pot smoking are unconscionably punitive. Maybe they are in a horrible downward spiral and need to be stopped, but it's also quite likely that they are fairly normal kids, and a pot charge could have screwed up their lives in a really horrible and unnecessary way.

And also, of course, you are justified in wanting to protect yourself by not being the "tattler." If you had witnessed some grave injustice, the ethical questions would be different.

Sorry that happened to you. Ick.
Andre said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Andre said…
You many consider bringing your concerns about the park to your local law enforcement and city council rep. The whole vibe of a park can change very quickly when a group of teens claim it as their turf. Trust me, you don't want to see drug activity in your park. There is nothing normal about where that leads.

If you're concerned or do not feel safe in a public place, then it is your right to take appropriate steps for you, your family and neighbors.
so that's my two cents.
Good luck!
Steph said…
You know, I've sort of been rethinking my original reaction to this, and Andre kind of confirming my re-think...not that you made a bad decision to not call the narcotics squad right then and there on those particular kids, but that reporting your experience to some higher authority would probably be a good thing. You might find out if local law enforcement keeps an eye on that particular park. If nothing much goes on there beyond the occasional passing of a joint, maybe they won't find anything, but if there's dealing going on, hopefully they can curtail it. You definitely don't want dealing going on in your neighborhood. If they have a tip, they might watch that park more closely.

I wish marijuana were legal. We would have far less to fear from incidents like this if it were.
Scott said…
To me, it sounds like the nastiest part of the experience wasn't so much that they had illegal drugs, but that they were cursing up a storm and being rude around you and your son. I think you acted just right in the situation, but I wish there was a way to get people not to shout the f-bomb around little kids. Could we report them to the "Generally Being Inconsiderate" department of the Madison police?
I'm with Andre on this one. You should at least "put a bug in the ear" of your local law enforcement so they can keep an eye on the park. If word gets out that it's a good place to roll a doobie, then somebody else will get the idea that it might be a good place to start doing other drugs. (At least, that's my opinion.)
Animal said…
Tess has been feeling uncomfortable at the increasing numbers of older-teen "gangs" that have been roaming the streets and park in St. Johns. I know that every day takes us further away from having BEEN these teens, but I never remember hanging around the park when I was that age...and I grew up in a very similar small town. The kids don't bother me: hell, in St. J's, most of them have long hair and metal t-shirts, so ultimately we don't look all that different...unless of course you count my white hair and, uh, baby. Heh. We have the same deal with the hanging around and cursing, though, and it just seems odd to me that these teens - who are obviously trying to act all tough - would choose to hang around the play equipment for LITTLE KIDS. We were talking to another dad there last week, and he mentioned saying something to them about the cursing, only to have them come back at him with typical rebel blah-blah. So, I think you're probably wise to NOT say anything to them directly.

And, my recent rules-iness aside, I too don't have a problem with the pot...as long as it's somewhere OTHER than the park, especially at the little kids equipment. There are plenty of places to go in a town as small as St. Johns, so there must be a BUNCH of places in a town like Madison. Just...go somewhere else, where "little pitchers" don't have to be exposed to the language and the drugs QUITE yet.

So, I'm on board with Andre and Steph: you ought to mention it to your local PD, even if that means you wander into a station house to talk to a Sgt. or fill out a report. Get some cars cruising the park more often, and the teens will find somewhere more appropriate to hang out.

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