July 21st, 2011

Gil Marsh cover

Trust and the big bad wolf

The horrible murder of 8-year-old Leiby Kletzky in New York makes you realize that there are really bad people in every community. The crime feeds that fear that we instill in our children—don’t trust strangers.

A call has gone out to add cameras on buildings to deter this type of crime. But as Frank Harris III thoughtfully explains, though cameras may be helpful in solving crimes, they are not an effective deterrent. And when it comes to truly awful behavior, they have proven to be no deterrent at all.

No matter what we do, there will be wolves in the woods.

Four years ago, a few miles from my house, a mother and her two daughters were brutally murdered in their home. The father, beaten with a baseball bat and left for dead, managed to escape as the house was set aflame by the assailants.

The crime rocked my community. People changed their locks, upgraded their security systems, bought dogs, and kept a vigilant eye.

A year ago, I was talking to an acquaintance at the town's Relay for Life, an annual event attended by hundreds of people that raises money for cancer research. His frantic daughter ran up: she had borrowed his house key and lost it somewhere in the grass.

"Well, look for it," he said.

She recruited a phalanx of friends to comb over the enormous field with flashlights (it was after sunset) while her father continued to chat.

“She’s not likely to find it,” I said.

“Not a chance,” he said. “It’ll be a learning experience."

“You have a spare one?"


"Then how are you going to get in?"

He grinned. “I left the side door open."

“But with what happened—"

Three years had passed, but he didn’t need to be told what I was talking about. He interrupted me. “I can’t live in fear that way."

I nodded, letting that sink in.

“You know how they got in?” he continued. “They broke through a locked basement entry. Someone bad wants to get in, my locked door wouldn’t make a difference."

Frank Harris III gets the last word:

I know that if little 8-year-old Leiby Kletzky had walked up to me or most other adults seeking help he would have been guided home, where he'd be today with a whole life ahead of him.

. . .
As parents, we can't be everywhere to protect our children. We can't always guarantee our own lives. At some point we have to trust strangers and people we think we know.

I believe there are more good people than bad.

I believe most of us would have helped little Leiby Kletzky find his way home.