As people become more and more aware of the treatment of Black people by police thanks to movements like Black Lives Matter, a simple 911 call doesn’t feel so simple.
And for good reason.
For Redditor Weak_Fruit9529, a situation involving their Black neighbors has them asking if they’d be justified calling the cops, knowing what could happen if things take a turn.
So the Original Poster (OP) turned to the subRebbit “Am I the A**hole” (AITA) to pose a hypothetical “Would I Be The A**hole” (WIBTA) scenario.
“WIBTA for calling the cops on my Black neighbour’s children?”
The OP laid out what exactly was happening.
“I work from home and as a side hustle, I grow exotic berries that are difficult to grow commercially. I don’t need this money to live, but the extra money does help out a little, though I make a pittance after the cost of raising these plants are included.”
“Mostly, I enjoy this for the challenge of getting what is often dried up stem cuttings and reviving them to form whole trees or bushes.”
“But my biggest money sinkhole so far hasn’t been pests or disease, but the nearby neighbourhood children. I get that high tunnels of bushes with berries ripe is hard to resist.”
“And previously, I’d been more than happy to give out excess to neighbours of more cheaper crop like raspberries or blueberries. However, my newest neighbour, a Black family, has three teen boys that have taken a fancy to my berries.”
“I know this as I have footage recorded from my cameras of them. I’ve spoken to the parents as they were picking off some of my most profitable, rare berries, and asked them to stop several times.”
“However, they passed it off as boys being boys, and that it’s just berries.”
“And the reason why I’m bringing up their race is that I was talking to a friend of mine, saying that I’m thinking about calling the cops on them the next time I see them in my garden. Which was when my friend, who had been sympathetic blew up at me.”
“According to her, I was being racially insensitive to the dangers cops posed to these children. And presented me questions like, are your berries worth the lives of these children on your hands?”
“That in the current political climate, calling the cops could be a death sentence.”
“I, to this point, had not really thought about their race and what it meant if I called the cops.”
“However, I am still stuck with ongoing theft of my rarer berries that pretty much carry the financial weight of my side hustle. I could live without this side hustle, but I wouldn’t be able to afford all my equipment if I was making no money off these berries.”
“So, WIBTA if I went ahead anyway and called the police to at least consult or make clear I just wanted them to talk to these kids.”
Redditors then gave their verdict using the following acronyms:
- NTA – Not The A**hole
- YTA – You’re The A**hole
- NAH – No A**holes Here
- ESH – Everyone Sucks Here
There were those who were quick to say the teens should face consequences.
“NTA. They are stealing.”
“You tried talking to the parents who refuse to stop their kids from STEALING. Call the police next time. The parents shouldn’t be so negligent.”—Mera1506
“NTA. But before calling the police, send them an invoice for the cost of the berries.”—Gibodean
“NTA, They keep stealing your property, call the cops. Just because their Black isnt a free pass.”—Mudkippz907
“WNBTA. They’re doing something illegal, and calling the police is something you have the right to do.”
“You told them before multiple times to stop doing that, and parents even defended them with the ‘boys being boys’ so…”—YuiSakyubasu
However, several Redditors suggested there might be other options without completely letting the teens off the hook.
“While I agree with this I would maybe mention it to the family before actually doing so. Perhaps the threat will be enough to stop the pilfering.”—gingr87
“There’s a difference between ‘hey, your kid is stealing my stuff’ and ‘if your kid doesn’t stop stealing my stuff, I’m calling the cops’.”
“OP has done the former, and the nice, neighborly thing is to do the latter. The a**hole thing is to just call the cops without any warning at all, of course.”—monkwren
“NTA But I’d let them know you’re seriously thinking about it and that you have video evidence.”
“That might be enough to deter them before the ‘cops’ level. Maybe there’s by-law enforcement that can come by in their stead like in my area.”
“They mostly issue fines to construction sites for noise and [lockdown] violations rn but they might be applicable.”—FalseAwe
“There is a middle ground. Threat of a civil suit.”
“Install some big bright motion activated security lights as a deterrence and mail the parents a cease and desist trespassing order with an invoice for the property they’ve destroyed/consumed.”
“Attach still pictures of the security footage of their children trespassing and destroying property.”—FlippThis
“This. I think OP is getting mostly advice that is not supportive of OP’s understanding of her neighbors’ children’s risk with police *especially* when they are in the wrong here.”
“Emphasizing that this is a civil problem and that the berries are a business would be important to me here. Honestly I would also think of planting a couple of ‘cheap’ berry bushes in the front yard too.”—Plant_sim
The parents should be made aware of the financial strain their sons’ actions have placed on the OP.
“I think this is a better approach. Explain how you cannot afford to give them the berries and sustain your operation, and if they can’t leave them be, you will need to contact the police.”
“Tell them you have video proof and it will be an open and shut case. Not really worth it just for some berries.”—BeanBreak
“And lay out the costs. You sell a pint of the rare berries for $X and you estimate that they have eaten/ruined Y pints for a total of $$$$.”
“ETA: go to the police at the station with your photos and stuff to file the complaint if you are worried the cops may come in guns blazing for a robbery.”—Cayke_Cooky
But some Redditors thought all parties could be equally guilty if the cops were called.
“ESH. Yeah, they shouldn’t be stealing your berries.”
“But mate, the cops aren’t gonna help you here. They can’t get your berries back.”
“All they can do is scare the bejeezus out of the kids, hopefully – and yeah, there’s more risk that goes poorly based on current racial tensions between American police and Black people.”
“You’re gonna do better telling your neighbors if it keeps happening, you’re taking your evidence (videos, I believe you said) to small claims court and suing them for the value of the berries.”—AMadManWithAPlan
“INFO: Did you tell the parents everything you’ve said here? Did you explain this is part of a business, not just berries, and their sons could be charged with a more serious crime than simply trespassing and stealing berries because it is associated with your business?”
“Did you explain the berries are specialty exotics and difficult to cultivate and your business is now losing money because of their sons’ stealing? Did you explain—because their stealing is affecting your business’ survival—you’ll have to take legal action if they don’t stop?”
“If you explained all of that, I doubt the response would be ‘boys will be boys’. I’d make sure the parents knew all of that before considering filing a police report.”
“Especially since, according to you, you’ve been consistently letting other kids steal your berries. An outsider is going to look at you letting the White kids take berries and you calling the cops on the Black kids.”
“If you make them stop, you really need to notify the whole neighborhood their kids need to quit stealing from you. Otherwise it’s not a good look for you at all.”
“If you have to send a letter to every house in the neighborhood explaining why it needs to stop, then I suggest you do so. Because you allowing White kids to steal for years would likely also come up in any civil action. Including the parents suing you for targeting just their kids.”—LakotaGrl
Redditor MousseDisastrous eloquently summed up the problem with the OP calling 911.
“NTA but your friend isn’t wrong either.”
“If I were you I would exhaust every other avenue before calling the police, such as threatening to call the authorities or threatening a civil suit or talking to the boys and their family directly. If you do end up calling the police, make sure you call the non-emergency line.”
“Stealing your berries, while illegal, is not an emergency and you can minimize the risk the police pose to the children’s safety by calling the non-emergency line.”
“It’s also important to note that by calling 911 instead of the police non-emergency line for something like stolen berries you’re taking emergency resources away from real, life threatening emergencies like car accidents, violent assaults, or medical crises.”
“Since you have footage of them stealing the berries, you don’t need the police to ‘catch them in the act’, you need them to take a report and collect your footage as evidence.”
“You can also minimize risk to the children by going down the the station during the day with your evidence and filing a report then and there for the police to follow up on.”
“Finally, you need to ask yourself, ‘Is my property really more important than these boys potentially losing their lives or futures over?’ Because that is a very real threat the police pose to your neighbors.”
“They need to learn that stealing is not okay but I don’t think they deserve to potentially lose their lives or be traumatized, which is also a very real and valid concern, over some stolen berries.”
“I also think it’s worth noting that the criminal justice system treats Black people very different than White people and that these kids could potentially face trumped up charges for stealing your berries when, if they were White, they could’ve faced a warning or a slap on the wrist.”
“Again, ask yourself, ‘Are my berries worth ruining a child’s future over?’ I feel there has to be some middle ground you can find between potentially ruining or ending their lives and them taking accountability for stealing your berries.”
Hopefully the comments have given the OP a lot to reflect on before they decide what actions to take, for their sake as well as the kids’.