Some rambling thoughts about feeling safe, inspired by a conversation I had with one of my flatmates this evening.
She has spent the day house-hunting with her fiancé, and we were chatting a little about what they’re looking for in a house, and which areas of the city they’re considering.
I mentioned the name of one particular area (relatively close the city, not too far from a Metro station, not too expensive) and the reaction was immediate: oh no, far too scary.
So I kept mentioning names of areas (all of which I consider to be quite nice) and got pretty much the same reaction each time, and now I’m beginning to wonder…
Do I have a skewed view of what constitutes a nice or not nice area?
I did initially think it might be an ‘it’s all relative’ type of situation. You know? You live in Jo’burg and suddenly everywhere feels safe in comparison.
But on closer reflection I realise that I had similar ponderings in my life pre-Jozi.
I recall a conversation I had with lovely Fiona when she came to visit me in Glasgow:
I had met her at Central Station and we were on the subway, headed west towards my house, when she noticed that I my iPod headphones were dangling out of my pocket and urged me to hide them away before someone saw them and decided to partake in a wee bit of pick-pocketry or mugging, which possibly would have been an almost guaranteed outcome in Brussels.
The response to that (which I may have said, or just thought – do you remember Fi?) was something along the lines of:
‘Och no (Scotland, ken?), not in Glasgow.’
Now I’m not really sure if that confidence was fairly awarded, but I certainly felt it. There was crime in Glasgow and there were places I didn’t (or at least, wasn’t supposed to) walk at night, and yet I felt generally safe there.
As comedian Kevin Bridges notes, it was named both ‘Murder capital of Europe’ and ‘the UK’s Friendliest City’, meaning, to paraphrase Mr Bridges: you might get the stabbed, but at least you’ll get directions to the hospital.
And what about the Toon? Well there is crime everywhere, it just all depends on what kind of crime you’re talking about.
There is a handy website that allows you to enter your postcode into a box and then it delivers a report detailing all of the crime that was reported in the surrounding area. During November the number of crimes reported in my area was 243 – which sounds quite a lot – but then you look at the break down of ‘types of crime’ and you see that 136 of those fit into the category of ‘personal, environmental or nuisance anti-social behaviour’. Slightly less impressive.
Ultimately, I just don’t find this town all that frightening. Obviously, stuff happens, and obviously there’s a degree to which one has to be sensible and prepared – so that it would be somewhat ill-advised for you to sneak up on me when I’m walking home at night, unless you really want to lose an eye after I put a key in it (fair warning) – but I can’t and won’t live in a way that tells me that just because a place is a little on the scruffy side means that crime, mayhem and death automatically must follow.
What about you? Where have you felt most safe, or most scared?
In summary: safe as houses. Probably.