I wanted to write this for every person like me who espouses all the great parts of living in the city, but rarely talk about the day to day frustrations and risks. I also wanna highlight that news is about eyeballs, and just like that car accident you can’t stop looking at when you drive by, news stations are the WORST source to get a feel for how safe or unsafe city living is. There’s no money to be made in reminding people that today 1.5 Million people went through XYZ city and no one got murdered by a stranger, today, this week, or this month.
My neighbor was held up at gunpoint, a sawed off shotgun, pointed at his face, he was told to get out of his car and get down. He listened. They then put the barrels on his skull and told him not to move. He listened. They sped off in his car, I woke up 20 minutes later and went on my morning run, missing being a victim by 20 minutes.
One of my 4 year old son’s classmates father got murdered while his 2 year old daughter was in the back seat, over a wallet he was giving to the assailants, just not fast enough. Thank you Philly PD for catching this teenager, lock him up, throw away the key, fine with me.
One morning in our San Diego apartment 2 months ago, I woke up for my morning run 6am-ish, when I opened the door, 20 police officers pointed at me and told me to get back in my apartment…5 minutes later they knocked, asked me what I heard…little did I know a guy was murdered on my floor. I walked outside, TV cameras everywhere, I went for my run.
I thought about my love of living in cities and how that might put my kids at risk. That is real. I think its natural for a second to say, would I move over this?
But I couldn’t help but think of all the upside, the breweries with the kids, the ease of a great meal with Nora, the date nights at some of our favorite spots. The random face painting and movie nights we can choose to stop by or meet at on my way home from work. The ease of getting around, the walking by the place we got married every couple of months, I stop and stand on those steps and close my eyes and try to remember the joy of the day and vow to try to keep that feeling / get that feeling back.
Then there’s other things I look forward to, that will be harder conversations as my boys get older. Drugs, homelessness, pride festivals, etc, those things will be more front and center as my neighbor is gay, we’ve seen homeless people living 500 feet from my front door, and I know that seeing them will spark meaningful conversations around not everyone getting dealt the same hand in life. Seeing someone strung out on heroin, unable to cross the street while cars are approaching will spark conversations that I could more easily avoid elsewhere. I will definitely miss them playing in the backyard with space like I did, riding their bikes around the hood. Etc.
Selfishly there’s me too. I get to walk to a pusha T concert if I want to, a brewery the next day, and take a 15 minute subway to see the phillies the next, I get all these options to enrich my day to day life, I can quite literally decide to get a drink on the way home and that could be a fancy cocktail, a cripsy IPA, at a fancy place or a place frequented by the local construction crews.
In all instances of violence near me, I quickly concluded that, I wasn’t going to move. It was an easy decision why? Because my life is about thriving, not just surviving, its about variety, diversity of thought, income, etc, seeing new exhibits b/c we can walk to it in 5–10 minutes, its about not living the same life every day.
Then there’s the data… always the data…data is my safety blanket when I might make a decision on fear. (This is how I got over my fear of flying, I kept flying).
I could drive every day to work and get out of the city — Probability of dying in a car crash: 1/10,574 (in PA I believe).
I also look at likelihood of being murdered by a stranger, hard to find data but this is what I could, in NYC there were 334 murders in 2013, just 29 victims didn’t know their killer (less than 10%). Here are stats for Philly, but they don’t have the “stranger” component, but if we take 10%, that is 30 victims per yer in a city of 1.5 Million.
The likelihood of all these things happening are slim, and that is why I decide to stay in cities every day.
I’m a city guy and a city parent through and through, I’m not disillusioned about the risks, but I don’t wanna live a life that is safe, I want to live a life that is fulfilled and to me the easiest way to do that is to live in the city.