This past week a young child died after he was struck by a vehicle. The news reports have been inconsistent and inaccurate by misreporting the child’s age. Several reports have instantly villainized the motor vehicle driver and have framed him as a “coward” in the same way that the person who evaded responsibility in the famous Park Street hit-and-run had been, despite the fact that this young adult turned himself in to police hours after the incident. I am reminded of an article I wrote over a year ago about how evading responsibility in such instances is not something that Hartford residents have a monopoly on, and how most of these drivers seem to do the right thing once they get over the initial shock and fear. Poor reporting does not help justice, nor does it paint an accurate picture for news consumers, many of whom are willing to pass judgment without relying on factual information. In reports, the area where the accident occurred was described as a road. At one time a road did go through the park; however, several years ago, the thru-street was removed. It is far more accurate to describe this section of pavement as a driveway, as it leads to a parking lot. It’s true that “Pope Park Drive” is listed on Google Maps, but as is necessary to remind people, Google Maps is often incorrect. The inability to accurately describe a place shows a disconnect with that area. This disconnect is seen again in reader comments left on the articles.
Here are a few gems from the comment section on WTNH:
I couldnt see the person hanging around after that. We are talking pope park in Hartford. That place is full of thugs and gangbangers. Best bet was what he did,Go to the PD. otherwise they would of attacked him. These people are into street justice..
If there were no roads through these parks, how would the police and ambulances get to all the Thursday afternoon “family gatherings” where someone OD’s or someone gets stabbed, beaten, or shot?
Pope Park should be closed, Its full of thugs and Dealers.
Glad to see the Latin Kings still breeding new recruits. Close that park - Its nothing but trouble since the South End was taken over.
From the Courant, there were just too many shining examples of human wisdom and compassion to choose from, but here are a select few:
Hartford is a cesspool, and the behavior of all parties - defendant and family of the victim - proves it.
Another person writes:
Hartford sure is one heck of a nice American City and State Capitol isn’t it!
Eager to see the cesspool, thugs, dealers, and gangbangers, I took a stroll down to Pope Park earlier today. A total disappointment. Not a single person offered me drugs. Nobody flashed a gang sign. I looked high and low for thugs. I checked out a playground – – but there were no thugs, just children, playing. Maybe the dealers and gangbangers would be down on the field, so I took a peek –– no dealers and gangbangers there either, just boys warming up for a game of baseball. Could those brilliant anonymous commenters all be wrong? Might there be no thugs in the park? I decided to check one last place: the parking lot:
Nothing! What I did see was a memorial set up for the child who died. From this angle, you can see the police tape, as well as the proximity of benches to the entrance and parking lot. You can see that this is more like a driveway than a street.
The only thing close to a cesspool, actually, was the really long grass that looks overdue for mowing, some graffiti, and the remains of vandalized portapotties. These same conditions are present in various parks both inside and outside of Hartford.
But don’t let facts cloud your ability to pass judgment.
Note: I have been to Pope Park at night, in late afternoon, during the week, and in the middle of a blizzard. Aside from someone riding a quad through the field a couple summers ago, I really can not say I have witnessed a greater degree of criminal activity there than any place else in Hartford.
Reprinted with permission of Kerri Provost, author of the blog RealHartford.
To view other stories on this topic, search RealHartford at http://www.realhartford.org/.