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Neighbors Wonder Why They Didn't Know Three Women Were Held Captive Nearby

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Ariel Castro, the primary suspect accused of holding three women captive in his Cleveland home, has been charged with kidnapping and rape. West side residents have been holding vigils since Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight broke free Monday night. And city councilman Brian Cummins will hold a community meeting Thursday at 7pm at Immanuel Lutheran Church on Cleveland’s west side. ideastream’s Michelle Kanu reports the neighborhood has a lot to talk about.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013 at 7:23 pm

The question many keep asking is how did this happen in our midst without anyone noticing?

Barnett: “The people are shocked, they don’t believe it happened and they’re feeling a little guilty about it.”

That’s ideastream Reporter David C. Barnett on The Sound of Ideas Wednesday morning with other guests. He the neighbors who live on Seymour Ave where the three women were held and rescued are now wondering whether they could have played a more active role in helping to locate the women.

Community members are also wondering how well they really know their neighbors; why they….or someone didn’t know more about Ariel Castro, the principal suspect who allegedly kept the women captive and brutalized for nearly ten years.

Another guest on the show, Lolita McDavid, says that type of introspection and self-doubt is natural in cases like these. She’s the medical director of child advocacy and protection at Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital.

McDavid: “When something happens and we didn’t tell, or we weren’t really looking, there’s always that self-reflection on what could we have done different.”
Doctor McDavid says a partial explanation for lack of attentiveness in this case stems from a societal change from a generation ago. Neighbors more often knew each other then and watched over each other’s homes and children.

People no longer look out for each other the way they used to.

McDavid: “I think we’ve moved away from being our brother’s keeper, too. I grew up in a community where if I misbehaved, not only would the person who saw me correct me, they would call my mother and tell my mother what I had done.”

That willingness to step in and correct someone else’s child, or to intervene in “someone else’s business” is greatly diminished from the culture of many neighborhoods, McDavid says.

But there are a lot of reasons why people hesitate to get involved.

They may worry about the neighbor’s reaction or be unsure whether what they’ve observed really warrants police attention.

Sound of Ideas host Mike McIntyre read an email from a listener named Vanessa that captures that reticence.

She described a house in her neighborhood that literally makes her skin crawl.

McIntyre: “The house is deteriorated, but it has cameras all around it. The windows are always closed, however there are multiple cars parked there and I have thought about reporting this house to local police, but I have not done it yet. I guess I am just worried about how the police will handle a report like this.”

But other listeners say they don’t hesitate to contact police or elected officials when something seems amiss.

Laura called in from the Brooklyn Center, an area on Cleveland’s west side near the home on Seymour Ave. She says she frequently contacts police about suspicious activity in her neighborhood, but pays a price for it.

Laura: “In general, when you live here, and you say something, you are marginalized, you are made to be ridiculed.”

Laura says she’s felt that from police and members of the community.

Another uncomfortable part of the conversation people are having is about what it’ll take to heal, not just the neighborhood but the victims: Gina DeJesus, Michelle Knight, Amanda Berry and Amanda’s six-year-old child.

So many years of separation from family and friends and the emotional and physical ordeal of living in that house on Seymour Ave.

Lolita McDavid says some delicate counseling is required, counseling that allows them to discuss the memories without rehashing the gory details will help.

McDavid: “For the women, you don’t want to re-injure them, and for a child you specifically don’t want to go over and over and over the same interview.”

The cautionary advice is something the police say they are very aware of and trying to respect.

As for those of us in the media, well, we’ll see.

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