Living in an abandoned neighborhood in an exurb way out on the edge of the California desert has its perks. There isn’t much in the way of nightlife in Victorville, California, and food options are limited, but it has one hell of a crime scene, maybe the most happening in THE whole state.
Hunter S. Thompson barreled through here with a head full of acid and a rag drenched in ether pressed against his face on his search for the American Dream. And that’s exactly what Victorville, a desert commuter suburb 100 miles east of LA, has become. It is subprime central, a wasteland that boomed at the height of real estate bubble, overflowing with cheap McMansions built to scam low-income suckers into homeownership. But these days, the dream is dead. The row upon row of empty houses makes this depressingly obvious. You know the poor people that get displaced by gentrification? Well, suburbs like Victorville are where many have been forced to go. Places like this are going to be America's 21st century ghettos, safely out of view, like Gulags.
But Victorville is special. It’s more diverse than LA or NYC, yet its population mixes in with a whole lotta indigenous hicks who strut around and fantasize about pumping a few AR-16 rounds into their new darkie neighbors. Poor people, pissed off white folk, high unemployment, a lotta meth labs and absolutely nothing to do...it’s a dangerous mixture that guarantees non-stop crime action.
It's a hustle and bustle every sun-baked day: No Country For Old Men-style shootouts, tweakers forgetting to take their babies out of their car seats, leaving them to be cooked alive in the hundred-plus heat, harmless bums getting sentenced to life for picking pockets thanks to three-strikes-and-you’re-out laws, drug dealers swallowing baggies of meth to hide their goods from the cops and overdosing, people trying to rob stores with bb guns and getting laughed at by shoppers, middle-aged women on parole getting arrested for fucking underage teens, wasted grandmas crashing into storefronts and flipping over on sidewalks...
When I moved into my three-bedroom/two-and-a-half-bath prefab palace on a street lined with freshly-built empty homes, my next-door neighbors (two beefy, Mormon dykes) told me how happy they were to see me. My end of the block was basically abandoned—nothing but a row of vacant homes, dead lawns, spotty streetlight illumination, and a stretch of open desert beyond—and, according to them, weird and spooky shit starts happening in the neighborhood after sunset. Every few days or so, someone would tap on their windows after they’d go to sleep. First, the tapping would come from a small side window, then it would move to the glass door in the back of the house and make its way to the bedroom and the living room. A week before I moved in, they said, someone started pounding on the door at 3 AM. “It was so loud and scary, like it was the police or something,” one of them told me, giving me second thoughts about deciding to move out here. “No, we didn’t check who it was. We were too scared. We just stayed in bed and waited for it to go away.” This happened all the time.
That’s some horror movie shit. You’d think it would inspire you to get some deadbolts, surround your house with motion-activated floodlights, and arm yourself with a couple of K-Mart shotguns, right? I actually keep a loaded 357 magnum under my pillow when I go to sleep. My two Jesus freak neighbors might be scared, yet they are too fat and lazy to close their garage door at night. They might be scared, but they just can’t be bothered to make an effort. Oh well, it’s just a matter of time before some tweak decides to make a go for it and have a little tie-up fun with them...After all, with Victorville’s severe chick shortage, this, sadly, might be the only way a guy out here can get laid.
And when the shit goes down, even cops might not be able to do much. Out here, they got their own problems. Last week, I was listening to my police scanner while having my Wheaties breakfast when I overheard that a cop—maybe retired—was holed up in his house threatening to go through with a murder-suicide, most likely with his wife. The situation was extremely dangerous, warned the dispatcher. The man was highly agitated and had at least four weapons on him. (I’m not sure how the whole thing played out, but it looks like this little embarrassment was buried real quick. The local newspaper is very diligent when it comes to local crime, but this episode never surfaced. )
But maybe my neighbors are on to something. Maybe they are right not to care. Yes, violent crime and armed robberies happen all the time around these parts, but evidence shows that the criminals carrying them out are usually too inept to cause any serious damage. Just take a look some of this month’s criminals:
About ten days ago, a routine house robbery turned into a hostage situation/police standoff. Three dudes who went to a house party returned to the residence to take the stuff they liked. Instead of securing the residence like professionals, they concentrated on the fun stuff, such as pistol-whipping the man of the house. In the midst of all the excitement, they didn’t notice that the guy’s 17-year-old daughter was also in the house, hiding in the closet and was dialing 9-1-1 while the goons were busy finishing off her dad with chokeslams and elbow drops in the living room. The cops arrived just as the robbers were loading their car and a long hostage situation ensued, but even that turned out to be a nothing but a long tease. After a few hours, they turned themselves in without putting up a fight.
A few days after that, two men were robbed at gunpoint at a gas station, told to strip to their tighty-whities and stuffed into the trunk of their own car, while the assailants went on a gas station robbery joyride. But fun didn’t last. Turns out the moron criminals didn’t really know how do drive stick and their jerks and stalls attracted the attention of a patrol cruiser. And that was that.
But no one puts the “victor” in Victorville quite like the group of tweaked-out thugs who managed to flip their SUV, crash into an electrical transformer and set themselves on fire while trying to flee from a middle-aged couple whose house they’d just robbed. After rocketing up to over 90 miles per hour through the curvy cul-de-sacs of Victorville, their Dodge Durango hit a speed bump too fast and at the wrong angle, causing them to flip over and land on top of a high-voltage electrical transformer that lit up their car like a Christmas tree. According to a witness account of the crash, the electric shock was so powerful it knocked bystanders off their feet. One of the perps even caught on fire and was walking in a daze, crying: “Don't let me die. I've got a family." But really he was more afraid of jail and tried to flee, even though most of his upper-body skin looked like it was made out of sun-dried tomatoes. Bystanders had to chase him down and tackle him to the ground, subduing him until the cops arrived. It all made for some savage hick slapstick.
The good news is that this sort of entertainment is here to stay. Judging by recent high school scores, a new generation of dumb Victorville criminals are ready to be tried as adults. See, half of this year’s high school grads couldn’t calculate an eight percent sales tax on a $10 purchase. On top of that, 1 out of 3 didn't know how long it took for the Earth to orbit the sun, 1 in 10 couldn’t name three countries that fought during World War II and another 1 in 10 didn't know how many states we have here in the good ol’ US of A. With stats like these, we can rest assured that in Victorville, no child is ever gonna be left behind.