The Blog Squad

Monday, November 21, 2005

Number Five ... with a bullet. (Sigh)


Here we are again, Richmond, in the spotlight for something so awful. Now we have been ranked No. 5 on the list of the nation's most dangerous cities. We fall in line behind Camden, N.J., Detroit, St. Louis and Flint, Mich.

This comes after a particularly violent weekend in the city with a number of shootings and stabbings. It also comes on the heels of the Greater Richmond Chamber of Commerce survey that said that more than 60 percent of us in the area feel positive about the Richmond region as a whole. Not surprisingly, we are more likely to be upbeat if we are white and living in affluent suburbs.

This ranking and those survey results put me in mind of something the former police chief, Jerry Oliver, said to me in an interview years ago. He said that unless you are involved in criminal activity, drugs or are in a domestic-violence situation in this city, you are really very safe. That rings true and speaks to the conflict between the statistics and perception in Richmond.

I feel very safe in Richmond. Of course I am white and do live in an affluent suburb. I am not involved in crime or drugs or domestic violence, just as Oliver said. When I lived in the Fan, I always felt safe, if a little more cautious. I feel safe downtown, even at night. But these aren't the problem areas anyway.

Recently, I got lost in Camden, N.J. It was a beautiful afternoon and I had just taken the kids to the Adventure Aquarium there. I took a wrong turn on my way back to my sister's house (in the affluent suburb) and wound up in the heart of war-torn, poverty ravaged Camden. I remember wondering how all the economic development that had taken place on the waterfront — the aquarium, the Camden Children's Garden, the Tweeter Center amphitheater, the Camden Riversharks Campbell's Field baseball stadium — didn't have some trickle-down flow to these neighborhoods. It was like the hole of a doughnut — empty, surrounded by fat and richness.

I can't tell you the last time I was in Richmond's worst sections. I'm sure it was while I was working as a reporter for Style Weekly and I walked through abandoned houses people shot up in and drove through housing projects with police officers and visited Boys & Girls Clubs in the East End. That was more than five years ago. And so when someone tells me I live in the fifth-most dangerous city in the country, my knee-jerk reaction is a scoff. But then I remember some of the places I've seen and I realize that because of who I am and where I live, there is so much I do not know about life in Richmond.


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