BEST VICTIM - 1998
Used to be ships got stolen, and they called it pirating. Then planes, and they called it hijacking. When it was kids, it was kidnapping. Now it's houses, and they call it honeycombing. Sometimes the owner's there and the jackers still just move in and set up shop until things get too hot to stay. Sometimes the owner's out of town. Jana Metge, executive director of the Central Neighborhood Improvement Association, owns a place in Phillips, which she has been rehabbing during her off hours. She drives to her folks' place for Thanksgiving and comes home to find a houseful of strangers making themselves comfortable on her couch, dealing crack out the back door, turning tricks upstairs. Some $9,000 worth of her stuff's been stolen, her ceiling's caved in from an overflowed bathtub upstairs, and her cat's been tortured to the tune of a $1,000 vet bill. She ends up with $13,000 in property damage and the cops at the Third Precinct brushing off her complaint, saying that at most, her jackers would be charged with trespassing. Cut to the chase: Unlike most of her neighbors, Metge knew how to squawk so the shakers would get moving. She made a nuisance of herself to U.S. Attorney David Lillehaug, city legislators, and the media until somebody paid attention--and unlike other anti-crime hellraisers, she did it without hysterics, hyperbole, or urban-apocalypse rhetoric. By the end of April, one of her uninvited guests was headed for a two-year jail term. Too bad it takes political connections--and a white hide--to get Metge's kind of justice in this town.