After all, David Simon is apparently so influential in Baltimore at this point that the Sun allowed him to use their name and logo—all so he can kick them when they’re down. He’s not wrong about anything, but The Wire has always been a delicate, refined piece of work. But as the season, almost certainly intentionally, devolves its gritty realism into some kind of Beckett-like absurdism, it sometimes seems as though Mr. Simon forgot that, as one character reminds another in season five, there’s a b in subtle.
THIS PAST FRIDAY, as I was preparing to write this piece, I was robbed while having a drink at a wine bar in my neighborhood. It wasn’t a violent crime; my bag was lifted off the back of the chair and whisked away with an alacrity that was hard not to admire. My friend called the police. An officer was on the scene within minutes. He took my description of the perpetrators and sped off in his wagon, hoping to find the woman in a red puffy coat who had swiped my blue messenger bag. Another officer took a police report.
I expected that to be it. But two days later, early on Sunday, a detective called to ask me about what happened. He’d be handling my case, he said. I recounted the facts to him, and he explained to me the dangers of identity fraud in cases like this. He called me back again to ask more questions, and asked if I’d come in later in the week to look at photos. I told him I would.
When I hung up, my husband shook his head. “So McNulty can’t get an extra detective for a huge mass murder case against a major drug dealer in Baltimore [this is a plot line in season five], but you’ve got a guy totally devoted to working your purse-snatching?”
Sure, it’s comparing fact to fiction, but he had a point. It’s just the kind of thing that drives Mr. Simon crazy: focusing on the little things, missing the bigger picture. Like the small quality-of-life infractions that mayors love to pursue and the police despise (open containers, bikes on sidewalks, loitering and noise), chasing my missing bag seems like an exercise in futility. Then again, my detective could just be “good police,” working his neighborhood beat, taking care of his community.
No matter how petty the crime, Mr. Simon would have nothing but admiration for that. The only time Jimmy McNulty was sober and happy, he’d quit the murder police to patrol the streets of West Baltimore in a uniform, to protect his own people.
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