A boy sits at the back of a pizza shop. It’s lunch time and the cavernous place is almost empty. He is sobbing, his blue eyes wet with fear. He is a short lad with sandy coloured hair and wears a hat, army fatigues and a soft backpack. I sit down to have a chat with him, hoping to allay his fear, to gain his confidence and offer some maternal consolation. He is only 13 years old and has wagged school to hang out with his 15-year-old sister who he rarely sees. The cops have been called as his mate nicked the tip jar of coins from the front counter of the pizza shop. His mate ran off with the money but he was caught standing there, an accessory to the crime. He claims he has done nothing wrong. Maybe that’s so, maybe it isn’t. The cops are on their way. I ask for his mother’s phone number. He says he doesn’t know the number because he is not good at remembering those sorts of things. He just wants to be with his sister as she has his Myki travel card. He continues to sob.
I meet two policemen outside. They have arrived in full combat gear, with padded vests, ready to deal with an armed gunman or terrorist. They say they will be taking him to the station. I ask it I could sit with the boy while they interview him at the pizza shop, as his mother won’t be home. Their response is aggressive. While the words ‘Fuck off Lady’ are not uttered directly, their comments about being an independent third party were delivered with some malevolence.
This little bloke is perhaps a petty thief and a school avoider. A year ago he was in primary school. His voice hasn’t broken. The police will frighten the living daylights out of him, but something tells me this will make matters worse. Something tells me that his treatment today will not be fair or just.