Opinion: A harrowing experience

POSTED: 06/28/12 11:59 AM

It is good practice for journalists and publishers to take some distance when a topic in the news comes too close to home. Newspapers are not meant to promote personal interests or to highlight things that happen to their staff. So we beg our readers understanding for making an exception here – not because the topic we are about to discuss is about one of our employees (it is) but because what happened to him happens to too many other citizens as well.
The case at hand is a robbery that took place in the night of March 2. The victim was our printer, Kurt Joseph. If things had turned out just a little bit differently, we could have been writing about a murder case here. That this is not so, is at least something to be grateful for. But when the story was told in court yesterday afternoon we realized for the first time what an ordeal Joseph went through and we also realized that, unfortunately, he shares this experience with untold others.
There are of course some peculiarities about this robbery, like the fact that Joseph actually knew two of the robbers. Even better, he considered one of them his friend. But that friend turned, out of free will or under pressure, to a Judas who knocked on his door in the middle of the night.
Who is it? Our printer asked and when he heard it was his friend Chicken, whom he had helped out before, saying that he was in trouble again, he opened the door to his home out of the goodness of his heart.
Joseph is by no means a small guy. But when unexpectedly four hooded guys rushed him, threw him on the ground, put a gun to his head and a knife to his side and attempted to tie his hands behind his back, he did not stand a chance. And still he resisted, until one of his assailants knocked him with the butt of the gun on his head, and then put the weapon’s barrel on his forehead saying that if he did not want to get killed he had to get inside the house.
Our printer played along for a bit, and then suddenly made a run for it. He managed to reach the house of a neighbor from where he called the police. Afterwards, three of the robbers were quickly arrested, and yesterday they were sentenced to sturdy prison sentenced. End of story.
But is it?
Our printer is upbeat and he goes to work every night. He was elated with the court rulings and he seems to have put the whole affair behind him. But this attitude is not given to every robbery victim. Some victims don’t dare to leave their house anymore after such a harrowing experience, or they don’t dare to stay at home alone anymore. They are afraid to go out at night, because in their nightmares they see the bad guys behind every tree.
And this pretty much sums up the horror of it all. Because the robbers at Joseph’s house took much more than a laptop, some cash and a gold ring. They stole the feeling of wellbeing and comfort he had in his own home, they took away his freedom, the way many other robbers took away the joy of living from their victims.
That is the real crime. Material things can be replaced, but there is no quick fix for that feeling of discomfort that stays with many robbery victims for a very long time and that never leaves some of them.
Against this background the sentences the three robbers received are relatively mild. But then, no prison sentence in the world is able to repair the mental and psychological damage they did to their victims. The worst thing is of course that these robbers will one day walk the street as free citizens again. and no matter what many of them tell in the courts (“I want to change my life,” is a popular and recurring line) quite some of them will return to a life of crime and to causing damage to more law abiding citizens.
We obviously applaud those among them who made a mistake” and who live up to their commitment to never do it again. But many others –especially those who deny anything and everything no matter how much evidence a court puts in front of them– deserve no respect or compassion at all.

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