Bringing Awareness and Safety to Mind – By Dalton Huckaby, Jr.

I was walking home from work just like any other evening. After being in massage school and working all day, I quite enjoyed walking down darker streets at night, enjoying the quieter, more peaceful streets while catching up with friends over the phone. I’ve always been diligent about being aware of my surroundings in areas such as SOMA and 16th/ Mission, which is where I work as an independent Health and Fitness Coach. Walking down 17th street from work, I thought I was in a safe area. I had just crossed Noe St. and was walking toward the corners of Market and Castro when my phone was snagged out of my hands. I had been looking slightly down at the ground and know now that this was an opportunity crime. I quickly started running after the perpetrator and yelling at him to stop and crying for help, too. I was keeping equal distance with him. I had my back pack on and realized at that point that someone else was behind me. I thought, “I need to take off my back pack so I can run faster and catch this dude in front of me.” But then, I didn’t want to take off my backpack and have the second guy behind me gain possession of it. At that point, the second guy pushed me down to the ground from behind and I sustained scrapes and bruises. I’d just gotten up from the ground, still a little dazed. He was standing under a tree, with a hoodie on, in the shadows, and motioned something with his hand. I got up to run after him, but then I thought he had a gun and was going to shoot me. Because it was dark, and I was a little dazed, I’m not sure if it was a gun or not, but I do know that’s the thought that crossed my mind at the time. The perpetrators escaped the scene and kind neighbors came out to help. One local resident was a paramedic and he helped nurse me. Another woman came with a bag of ice while another lady called the police. The police arrived within 5 minutes but were unable to locate the perpetrators. You see, even with the tracking device, if the phone is turned off it can’t be tracked. Both muggers wore dark hoodies with caps underneath and had on dark clothing, too. I vaguely had a description of the second guy; again, because he was in the shadows and wore a hoodie.

It wasn’t until my mugging that I became more aware of the crime in the Castro area, especially around what’s appropriately been called “Apple Picking” or “iCrime.” At first, I wasn’t going to talk about this issue in detail with too many people. As I told a few people, I became increasingly aware of how often these types of opportunity, and other crimes, are committed; that it’s not just a city-wide problem, but a nationwide issue! I then realized that this is a bigger issue than me. Becoming an activist without realizing it, I wanted to bring awareness to this issue in an effort and in hopes to prevent this from happening to someone else. My partner, Bobby Singer, put me in touch with Waiyde Palmer of The Castro Biscuit. After Waiyde published the article, it pretty much went viral, having been picked up by SFist, curbedsf, the Examiner, and Towleroad. I also spoke with the Bay Area Reporter and New York Times.

After talking with friends and finding out about local available resources, I now work with CCOP (Castro Community on Patrol) and with The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence on their Stop the Violence campaign to pass out whistles. With CCOP, we were able to get 10 people to sign up for a volunteer neighborhood watch program. I told my story at The Edge on the corner of 18th and Collingwood a couple of times at Stop The Violence fundraisers and also at my dear friend Cookie Dough’s Monster Show one night. I told my story to help raise awareness of the crime in the aware, encouraged people to be safe, and passed out safety whistles, too. Friends show up to help, as well; including, helping plan a self-defense class on Tue, Apr. 30th at Metropolitan Community Church on Eureka. Some friends recommended EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) and I’m in the process of that to help me heal.

Since that mugging during the 9pm hour on Monday, March 11th, I still am a little paranoid about being on the streets and am always watching my back. It’s my hope that I one day will regain a sense of serenity and safety. I’m a lot more vigilant about using my phone in public and of my surroundings, in general. I continue in my resolve to help spread the word of crime awareness in any way I can and encourage others to be safe. Even as I write this article, I hear horror stories of other friends who are robbed at gun point and having their phones stolen from them. This just fuels my passion even more to  do what I can to help keep the streets safe. I hope you’ll do the same, and join me. Create and/or join a civilian run neighborhood watch program in your area. If you live in the Castro area, I encourage you to attend a volunteer training and sign up to patrol the streets! Keeping silent and expecting someone else to do something about it will not do the trick. I continue to be empowered by taking back my own power and remaining active and continue to bring awareness in the community. Be safe, my friends!

 

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