I was mugged, but I am not a victim!
Just before midnight on Friday night, August 20, I was mugged while walking from my restaurant to my parked car. It was a horrifying experience in which I was struck repeatedly on my head and back from behind. I suffered many bruises and spent nine hours in a dentist's chair having my teeth repaired.
I have blogged about my experience (All You Need Is Love and I Was Ambushed!), but because a local television station exploited my mugging, I feel obliged to speak to the greater community about what really happened.
I own and manage True Thai Restaurant, a successful business. Restaurant owners carry cash on them because many of our vendors do not accept checks or credit cards. Thieves know this, and I knew that they knew. But it is only a few feet from the back door of my restaurant to my car, and I thought I was safe. I was not.
That was my mistake. If I was victimized, it was by my own indifference to my safety. If you carry large sums of cash, whether it is in Minneapolis or Bangkok, you need to take precautions. Because I did not, countless neighbors in the Seward Neighborhood are now walking their dogs past my restaurant at closing time, and customers volunteer to walk me to my car each night.
I am lucky to have so many friends and supporters. When the TV station news crew ambushed me on Saturday, September 4, I thought they wanted to do a story about the neighborhood and their support for me. No, they just wanted to show my face on the news with the word "victim" under it. No one knew how much money had been taken, but the police report categorized the theft as over $1,000 (it was $1,100, an unusually large amount for me to be carrying) and to my horror the TV station shared that number.
Now I do feel like a victim. This TV station just told tens of thousands of people that I carry large sums of cash on me late at night (in fact it is usually much less than that). They also acted like the crime had just happened when in fact their coverage ran over two weeks after the crime occurred.
Some people would say, "Anna, you need to protect yourself!" I work out but I only weigh 93 pounds so I think martial arts will not work for me. A customer gave me some pepper spray, but I am scared to carry it with me. I was attacked from behind and had no opportunity to grab anything from my purse to protect me. A gun would not have helped.
My best protection is to make sure we keep the back alley well lighted and that True Thai continues to work with Seward Redesign and other business and residential neighbors to make Seward a safer neighborhood.
Actually, Seward is a pretty safe neighborhood — contrary to what you hear on TV. Yes, we had a shooting last spring but the shooter is in prison and will stay there for a long time. The shootings at Seward Market and Halal Meats were much more terrifying to me than my own mugging was, but the courage of my Somali neighbors in keeping their business open impressed me. Shortly after they re-opened I stopped in to buy something to show my support. The market was empty except for five young Somali men behind the counter, one to wait on customers and four friends who were there to show their support.
In recent weeks I have learned how important support is. Better lights and more police presence are good deterrents to crime, but nothing beats the support of your friends and neighbors, all of whom have done so much to remind me that I am just one of many people in Seward, and that Seward watches out for its own. The cards and flowers and personal reassurances have made it clear to me that I am not a victim. Seward residents are not victims. No one is a victim unless they wish to be, no matter how hard TV stations may work to try to scare us.
Anna Prasomphol Fieser is a full-time Public Health Nurse for Ramsey County Public Health Department. She and her business partner Charles Whitney own and operate True Thai Restaurant on East Franklin Avenue in the Seward Neighborhood of Minneapolis.
I don't know why this didn't interest the Star Tribune, but maybe True Thai should start advertising with them. That does seem to be how things work.