‘Code of silence’ hurt those it was meant to protect | AspenTimes.com

‘Code of silence’ hurt those it was meant to protect

The arrests this week of a number of well-known local youths for armed robbery, burglary and car theft have left many in this community with a lot of questions. Attempting to answer any of those questions at this point is difficult. The investigation is still unfolding, and it is likely there will be much more to read and debate in the weeks and months to come.

Despite this lack of information, it appears residents are already lining up to assess blame. Listen to the conversations on the street and you’ll hear any number of philosophies regarding the recent incidents. Some blame the excess of wealth in Aspen, others blame the parents; some blame society as a whole, while others believe this was just a bunch of stupid kids doing stupid kid things.

The bottom line is, placing blame is never constructive and almost never gets to the root of the problem.

There are a number of disturbing things about what has happened over the past month or two. If the allegations are true, how could kids that we have raised in this community have resorted to such violent and drastic action? We pride ourselves in this town on looking out for our kids, for creating a safe yet challenging atmosphere, yet it appears likely that these boys felt disenfranchised. Where did we go wrong?

And why did the other kids – and parents – who apparently knew what was going on decide to remain silent? Sheriff Bob Braudis said Wednesday that his department’s investigation revealed that a number of kids, and sometimes their parents, had vital information about the armed robbery at Clark’s Market, yet never came forward. Their failure to disclose what they knew not only hampered the investigation, it possibly put people’s lives at risk, including the lives of the young criminals themselves – the very people that silence was meant to protect.

If the police reports are accurate, the suspects could have been taken into custody before they resorted to burglarizing a home, stealing a car and heading to Boulder. During that trip, at least one of the suspects fled from the police in a stolen car that had guns in the back seat. They were lucky. That scenario many times ends in bloodshed.

In some ways, it is difficult to place blame on the youngsters who maintained a code of silence. Anyone who remembers being a kid knows that refusing to “snitch” on your friends was a rule not to be broken. It appears that rule has not been altered. It is a rule that might make sense for small infractions; but that is not the case here.

There was a lot of talk after the Columbine shootings about this very topic. Many kids at that school said they knew something was going to happen, that they had overheard the shooters talking about grand plans to kill the people they hated. Yet the code of silence held solid, and teachers and other authorities were caught by tragic surprise.

In our naivete, many of us probably believed that children here and elsewhere heard that message, and learned that keeping silent helps no one and almost always leads to someone getting hurt. In this case, it could be the destruction of seven young lives, as well as the painful memories their victims will carry for the rest of their lives.

We would encourage the parents of our community to take this opportunity to explain this to their children, or remember to explain it to their children when they grow older. When guns and violence are involved, we have to find a way to make our children understand that keeping silent is the worst policy, and if they truly care about their friends’ safety, they must be willing to do the right thing.

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