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broken windows

People On The Streets

Yesterday I read about the young man who was mugged and fatally stabbed in Charles Village. After thinking about the weight of the tragedy and the compassion of the witness who helped him, my first gut reaction was to move out of the city. I’m sure I wasn’t alone in thinking this, and being that I’m a renter, it would be easy to move out to Towson or Columbia, if for nothing else than peace of mind.

This wouldn’t be a fair chronicle of living without a car if I didn’t mention crime. I’m not protected like I once was. I’m out in the open. Have I felt unsafe at times in certain neighborhoods? Sure.  But these occurrences have been few. It would be obnoxious of me to site crime statistics and talk about the rarity of random personal crime, though. When people choose neighborhoods and cities to live in, they hardly ever look at statistics. The perception of safety trumps whatever data is out there, and if a place feels unsafe, that’s enough to deter people from moving there. It’s even enough to deter people from walking a few blocks from their car to their place of business.  It comes down to a personal decision and ones own comfort threshold.

So my first reaction was to move out of the city.  The same decision made by about 300,000 people since 1950 for various reasons; a bigger yard, lower taxes, crime, schools, jobs, etc.  But by leaving, I make Baltimore less safe in some small way. One less eye on the street. One less law abiding citizen.  The police can’t possibly watch every block of every neighborhood. But the more life we have on our streets, the safer our streets become. Criminals are mostly cowards who operate in the dark and out of sight.  The community can’t carry the entire weight, either. A partnership is needed.

And my initial reaction to move was based on fear. Almost every decision I’ve made out of fear has turned out bad. In a knee-jerk, emotional reaction, it’s easy to lose sight of all the benefits of city living.  The city doesn’t belong to criminals. It belongs to the people who are trying to build it up, not tear it down.

So I will still be on the buses, trains and out on the street. Doing what I’ve been doing, and still living in the city.