A few days ago I was coming out of the new Pick-N-Save store at 1901 63rd Street in uptown Kenosha and saw some young shoplifters being questioned.
That sight flashed to mind again Wednesday when two adults who were caught shoplifting at the same store came to court.
Although these people -- a single mother in her 20's and an older man in his late 30's, both with substantial criminal records -- were charged with retail theft for stealing from Pick-N-Save the real crimes were against the community.
The uptown Pick-N-Save in Kenosha has been open for a year or so. It's a gleaming new suburban-style store on what was once a brownfield. There's a bank inside and another full-service bank at the edge of the parking lot. People who live in one of Kenosha's inner city neighborhoods have jobs at the store and the banks and a lot of neighborhood folks shop there. It's always refreshing to shop there and see how happy the employees and customers are.
They have good reason to be happy.
Until that Pick-N-Save opened, there wasn't a grocery store in the neighborhood for over a quarter century. The last drug store pulled out more than a decade ago. Same for Bank One, replaced by a proliferation of "Payday Loan" store thay prey their usury on the working poor.
In fact, Kenosha attracted national attention by luring a "real" grocery store and "real" banks back to an inner city neighborhood that many gave up on. That doesn't happen in many places.
So when these dirtbags steal from Pick-N-Save, the people who own the store aren't the only victims. The single mothers who have jobs there may suffer the loss of employment should Pick-N-Save decide they can't make a go of it because of shrinkage. The honest people in that neighborhood will suffer if their only grocery store closes, and even if it doesn't, may be viewed with more suspicion when shopping or have to pay higher prices due to the need for more security.
This isn't just idle chatter.
I lived in Benton Harbor, Michigan -- one of the most impoverished and crime-ridden cities in the country -- and saw stores leave. K-Mart pulled out specifically because of its losses from shoplifting. Sears moved to a suburban mall. Most of the car dealers are gone. One-by-one most of the factories also closed leaving a ghost town of despair with people still living there.
Of course, when people steal and commit other crimes they never really think about the impact of what they do -- not just on the immediate victim but on the community as a whole.
So it was somewhat troubling that when these two thieves appeared in court the judge didn't make any effort to impress upon them not just the wrongfulness of what they did as a crime against the laws of the state but its impact on the community.
That's too bad (and particularly surprising as this judge's family operated a business in uptown Kenosha for many years). It seems all too often Kenosha judges like to talk tough about crime but don't always walk the walk when the rubber meets the road.