Deveron was a fast talking, street smart kid with a ready smile and a mop of curly hair.
He was also one of my best friends while growing up on Detroit’s west side. He was a great kid with one tiny vice. He stole cars.
An older cousin taught him how to hot wire cars and Deveron became an expert at it. One day we sat in a rusted out hoop tee in his back yard talking. This car did not run, but he’d get behind the wheel and we were driving down Lakeshore Drive in Grosse Pointe or taking an impromptu spin down I-94 to Chicago.
I asked Deveron why he stole cars. He basically said because he was good at it and that he believed he could not get caught.
“You should come with me sometimes and see how easy it is,” he said.
I thought about it, but ultimately fear won out. I was not afraid of getting caught by the police. I was afraid of the old ladies who raised me and pounded into me that if ain’t mine I don’t touch it. They’d kill me if I started stealing cars.
I didn’t even tell them of my friendship with Deveron. That would freak them out.
They stressed education to me. That is why I was the nerdy kid reading books on the front porch, pretending I was inside the pages of adventure novels.
One of the main reasons I bring this story up is because I was ripped by some people a few weeks ago when I said on twitter that America needs more schools and fewer prisons.
If education wasn’t stressed to me I might have taken Deveron up on his offer and became a car thief instead of a journalist. Maybe America would need one more prison cell for me after I got caught.
Often people become criminals because there is no hope in their lives. They are more street smart than book smart and that leads you down a dark path.
One day I was walking down the street when I heard a police siren screaming a few blocks away. Soon a car came shooting toward me going at break neck speed. Deveron was behind the wheel. He shot a quick glance my way before making a violent right turn. He was going so fast that two hub caps fell off the car and rolled past me.
A few seconds later a police cruiser made the same violent right turn.
Deveron, the hotwire kid, was caught.
It was the last time I ever saw my childhood friend. They threw him into juvenile detention and when he got out his family shipped him down south to try to turn his life around.
I am glad I said no to a life of crime and yes to a life of writing and reporting.
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