September 24th, 2009

(no subject)

Obvious disclaimer: kidnapping and sexually abusing children is wrong. I do not condone it in the slightest and I would like people who do it to be kept away from all children. I am not anti-police. I appreciate what they do to enforce the laws we have chosen.

Now, on to what I want to say. A while back, The Chronicle published pictures of the Garridos’ house, in which it looked like a squalid, filthy, cluttered pit. This seemed to suit our need, as a society, to condemn. Of course these people were evil—I mean, look at their house. We want the demons to be as uniformly bad as possible, to have bad taste, unsavory hygiene, and vermin dwelling in their kitchen sinks. We want them to be worse than we are, beyond the shoes we might leave on the bedroom floor or the crumbs on the counter. We want to say: these people are not us. We are not capable of their chaos, much less their alleged crimes.

Then yesterday, this article ran. It turns out that the photos depicted the house after the various law enforcement agencies searched the place, looking into every pot, under every sofa cushion, and behind all closet doors in case of skeletons. Which is to say, the Garridos appear (remember, they are innocent until proven guilty) to be sick people who have done some very very bad things, but they are not irretrievable slobs.

Which brings me to the law enforcement angle of this whole thing. So far, the police have dug up the entire yard at the Garrido house. They have demolished a shed next door. They want to raze the house itself in search of evidence of further crimes, but Mr. Garrido’s brother, who deals with his mother’s affairs since she is old and incapacitated, and the police are discussing who would pay for the $18,000 demolition of the house, which the mother owns.

No evidence of any other crimes has been turned up by the excavations to date. The human remains found on the properties appear, so far, to be old and Native American. There is no obvious link between the Garridos and the other terrible kidnappings that remain unsolved. What possible argument can be made for tearing down the entire house?

We are all, I think, appalled by what has happened to Ms. Dugard. We are also appalled that she was not discovered and rescued sooner. Lots of criticism has been expressed about lax supervision of a convicted sex offender on parole. But none of that justifies this seemingly elemental drive to destroy every last vestige of the Garridos’ human existence.

And whoever did kidnap those other girls is pleased that yet again he (probably… it could be “she,” but that’s really unlikely) continues to go about his business undetected. Let’s spend our resources more wisely, in directions that help us achieve justice for all victims, not just vengeance on some perpetrators.