The Tax

When my wife was a little girl, she and her mom were sitting in their car, eating lunch from a fast food place, when two men approached asking directions. Then they took out guns and got into the car, telling my wife’s mom to drive away. They had just robbed a store and were looking for somewhere to lay low. My mother-in-law drove the men around town for a few hours, my wife sitting next to them in the back seat. Finally, the two men got out and left.

To this day, my wife won’t sit in a parking lot with doors unlocked, and is reluctant to sit in a car for long anywhere, no matter how apparently safe.

A friend of mine who lives and teaches in West Philadelphia calls this almost permanent feeling of anxiety the Tax. Twice, a group of high school kids like the ones he teaches have run up to him out of nowhere, while he was sitting in front of his apartment or walking home, punched him a few times and run away, taking nothing, and the second time breaking his jaw.

As he put it, the pain and indignity of the assaults themselves were nothing to the subsequent and long-lasting anxiety of never feeling safe on your own street, not being able to relax on your porch with a beer.

It seems to me that the Tax is an underappreciated component of the costs of crime.

 

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