What do you want to know about crime & punishment?

By Lars Gesing

When Bobby said, “I look at this as giving advice to my son,” I knew I was in for the long haul.

The lock on my bike had barely clicked when I spotted Bobby Robinson, 63, sitting outside of Flatirons Coffee on Arapahoe Avenue, celebrating his Saturday afternoon with a cigar. It was almost 3 p.m. when I stole Bobby’s attention away from his iPhone screen. “Got five minutes to talk to a CU journalism student?” “Hell yeah,” he had five minutes. In fact, he had two hours and five minutes.

On the way to Flatirons Coffee, a Starbucks-inspired hangout for students and bankers alike, I had this flawed feeling of uncertainty flooding my veins. Would people really come up with story ideas for a Crime & Punishment beat?

Bobby would.

“I think Boulder County, priding itself on being extremely liberal, is prosecuting sexual assault much harder than other counties in Colorado do. I’d like to know if that’s true.”

Twenty minutes later, we were talking about his understanding of success in the 21st century. We got into the changing definition of humanity, German philosophers and followed up on how bioscience accelerated Apple’s ascent to becoming a finely tuned money printing machine.

We went off topic. Far off. I didn’t care – a huge chunk of stories piled up in my notebook. My journalist’s synapses were firing. I was on a roll.

Carly Dvorak, a 19-year-old sophomore at CU Boulder’s Arts & Science College, and biochemistry major Ryan Breuer, 20, both earn some cash as baristas at Flatirons Coffee.

“All those CU email-newsletters about crime make me paranoid,” Ryan said. “I’d rather not get all the emails about sexual harassment on campus. Why do they send them to us, anyways?” Carly wanted to know. “And how are the liberal marijuana laws affecting consumption among students?” she asked on second thought. All I had to do was keep taking notes. It was almost too easy.

When Cathy Meadoss told me she was 67 years old, I wasn’t the only one who glanced at her in sheer disbelief. Carly, who was just reaching over the counter to hand Cathy her coffee, uttered: “You seriously look like 40.” Flattered, Cathy’s tongue loosened. “I don’t want to be a cop nowadays. I feel like the public perception of what they are doing is getting worse every day.” I told her I’d make sure to ask the next cop I’d meet if she was right.

Five minutes later, I had an answer.

Boulder Police Department Officer Stephen Coon was walking by just moments after I sat back down with Bobby outside to chat a little more. I confronted the policemen with Cathy’s idea of misery in his daily routine. He burst with laughter. “Students on Friday nights especially appreciate what we are doing.” Time for a follow-up question: “Is dealing with students really that tough?” Coon: “It changed over the last couple of years. We are now working with fraternities and sororities to tackle the issue of alcohol abuse.” Here’s to the next story, I thought to myself, taking a triumphant sip of my by now ice-cold coffee.

When I finally thanked Bobby, it was almost 6 o’clock. Time to write a blog post.

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