Street Smarts

Kendra Hicks is a senior journalism major and staff writer for The Journal

One of my biggest pet peeves is when people make either of these two statements: “I don’t go in the city because it’s too dangerous,” or, “If you go in the city, make sure you have someone go with you.” Apparently, suburbia thinks any trip downtown, or past the city limits will bring big, scary monsters knocking on their car windows.
Not everyone in the city is dangerous. It’s almost embarrasing that in 2011 we still have to explain that city neighborhoods are different, not deadly. A lot of city dwellers (like myself) are doing the same thing that people in the county are trying to do; live life, make money — legally — and hopefully see the next day.
But the biggest false sense of security? People who live in St. Louis County feel like they are safer than the people who live in St. Louis City. I have lived in the city all my life and I need to clarify a few things. One, I don’t hear gunshots when I go to sleep at night. Two, every neighborhood in the city isn’t unsafe. Three, not every person walking around at night is a mugger, a drug dealer or a pimp.
But statistics don’t lie, and there is more crime in the city than the county. According to the St. Louis Post Dispatch, from February 2010 to August 2011, there have been 91,000 crimes reported. In St. Louis County from January 2011 to October 2011, there have only been 38,000 crimes reported.
For as long as I can remember, my dad has been telling me to “watch my surroundings.” He has been a police officer for City of St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department longer than I have been alive. As a child, I didn’t understand why awareness was important. Either you got lucky and stayed safe or you didn’t, right?
The older I’ve become, I get why he was stressing this issue. He knew that crime wasn’t always about lucky or unlucky, or your neighborhood. It’s about being smart, safe and reasonable.
Going into the city just requires the use of some basic street smarts. And after seeing more than one of my peers lose their sense of security or their property to “rookie mistakes,” I thought it might be time to educate people.
Here are some tips on things to do and not to do when making your couple trips to the city every year for baseball and football games, the Botanical Gardens, the Zoo, the Arch, Forest Park and the Central West End, The Fox, City Museum and the Science Center.
—Always lock your car doors. Just do it, I don’t care how nice the neighborhood is.
—Do not leave any valuables visible in your car.
—Don’t leave the GPS bracket on the windshield. Thieves now know there’s a chance that the GPS is in your vehicle.
—Secure items in the trunk of the car before you reach your destination.
—Do not walk down dimly lit streets at night. You are just asking to get mugged.
—Observe the people around you, but try not to stare.
—If you are uncomfortable, don’t walk alone with your eyes on the pavement, walk with a group.
—If you leave your bike unattended, always secure it to a fixed object — a tree or light pole — with a chain and a lock.
—If going to a game downtown, park in the garages. Yes, they’re more expensive, but there are far fewer break-ins. Consider it a down payment on safety.
—If you can, take the MetroLink if you’re going to a big event in the city. Looking cool in your car won’t be cool while sitting in traffic.
—Do not walk around with both headphones on. Anything could happen and you would never know.
If these steps are followed, a trip into the city can be safe and fun. Going to the city doesn’t have to be a scary experience — it should be looked at as a learning experience.  If more county residents used some of these tips when going back to the county, I wouldn’t have to see on the news that someone broke into a home or car because they left the doors unlocked.
This isn’t ground-breaking stuff, it’s just common sense. But as long as we hear county dwellers speak of the city with fear and trepidation, we have failed in our ability to interact. Take my advice or don’t, but the Cardinals game will go on without you.

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