On a lovely July afternoon, en route to a Gaslamp Quarter restaurant, I was panhandled seven times in six blocks. Just as I reached the corner of 5th Avenue and E Street, I was accosted by a drunk lying in the middle of the sidewalk who, when I ignored his demands, rolled his bottle toward me in an attempt to trip me. I quickly glanced up 5th Avenue and noting that there was no traffic, I crossed the street against the light.
I confess. I am guilty of jaywalking.
Heading south on 5th Avenue, I heard someone saying, several times, "Excuse me, miss." Not even considering stopping, I hurried toward my destination until I felt a hand on my shoulder. With more than a little relief, I turned to face two San Diego police officers. Thinking they had seen the incident and had come to help, I became incensed when I realized that they had stopped me for jaywalking.
I was not pleased and I was not polite. I told them of my plight and all they could say was that they had not seen the incident, but had seen me cross against the light.
I also plead guilty to being angry and verbal with the two officers. I pointed out my difficulty in walking the six blocks from my rented condo and asked if they didn't have anything better to do.
I questioned the need for two young, strong and armed officers to stop one 128-pound middle-aged woman for what I felt was a justifiable incident of jaywalking. I expressed relief that I wasn't carrying a screwdriver, as I might have risked being shot.
I do not regret one second of my diatribe. I was and am very angry at a policy that penalizes citizens, visitors and businesses for a trivial infraction, while public drunkenness, vagrancy and drug peddling are allowed to flourish.
I am not without compassion for the homeless; it is a dreadful problem and certainly not unique to San Diego. But I have yet to be panhandled by someone sober. I have also yet to be protected from them by any officer of the San Diego Police Department.
The young officer who cited me suggested that if I didn't like the way things were run in San Diego, perhaps I might be happier elsewhere. He has a point.
DOROTHY A. STARR
San Antonio, TX