The night the cops raided the apartment below us, we no longer felt safe here.
My girlfriend’s apartment building is in a city neighborhood that not too long ago was relatively peaceful and stable. But that has eroded in recent years, and the signs that this is a “transitional” neighborhood are not subtle.
Shootings, armed robberies, assaults at all hours of the day and night. Not on a regular basis, but often enough to be unsettling. All just a few streets from us.
We look out the window and see trash strewn on lawns, including ours. There’s often broken glass in our parking lot. We frequently have to put up with noisy, inconsiderate neighbors.
Most weeks, we take care of all the trash and recycling because few tenants think to take it to the curb on pickup day. If we don’t, it just sits next to the building and attracts squirrels and skunks, probably worse.
We’ve tried to be “part of the solution.” My girlfriend has routinely picked up other people’s trash in the yard, and has tried to have the landlord address quality-of-life issues. We were told after the police raid in January that the source of the problem would be dealt with. That hasn’t happened.
Three residents, single women who lived alone, have moved out in the past six months.
There’s just a sense of hopelessness around here, despite the positive signs we do see — immigrant families walking together dressed in the traditional clothes of their homeland, kids tossing a baseball or playing basketball (albeit at a house boarded up with plywood).
The apartment is convenient to our workplaces, but we’re planning a permanent change in venue — out to the ‘burbs, where I have a modest house that’s basically an empty nest with my sons grown and gone.
Last weekend, with that in mind, we did some work at my house.
On Saturday afternoon, we heard tires screeching at the corner — a common sound at the apartment, but not at the house. We looked out to see a man striding down the street, this way and that, trying to ignore the driver of a Jeep who was following him and trying to get his attention.
It looked like a typical “verbal domestic.” The man wouldn’t even look at the driver, who continued to follow him up and down the street. We didn’t hear anything further as they disappeared from view.
Maybe I’m jaded by what I see out the apartment window in the city, but I didn’t think the incident warranted a call to 911.
That may have been a mistake. A larger error, however, would be to assume that escaping to suburbia brings with it an immunity from the troubles that plague the city.
No matter where you go, people are having trouble. They’re hurting. Those pains manifest themselves in different ways, depending on genetics, maturity, coping skills, home life, educational opportunities and other factors.
I don’t like giving up on the city neighborhood, because that’s admitting defeat to the hopelessness that surrounds us. But I have to be realistic. We’re trying to balance our personal safety with our faith in others to be decent human beings.
It’s a shame, but I think I know what the smart move is here.
(Note: I awoke this morning to give this post a final edit, but first checked a local website for the news. There was another shooting last night, two blocks away. Two people were taken to the hospital. The beat goes on.)