Today as I was driving to get a bite to eat a handful of blocks down from our house, I saw a young black man running faster than I’d seen anyone run in quite a while. Less than a minute later, a police car calmly drove down the road and turned on the street that the running youth turned onto. While I was waiting in line at the drive-thru I saw another police car turn onto the same street. Then a police SUV. Then the SUV came back and turned down a neighboring street. As I drove home with my food, I turned down the street that was seeing a lot of action. Two police cars were parked in front of a house. The officers were stepping out with their guns in their hands aimed at the ground. I wondered if the cop(s) in the SUV were coming at it from the other end. I drove by before seeing what, if anything, transpired afterwards.
The remnants of the former crime zone of the neighborhood Clancy and I live in are still around. A lot of the local establishments have bars on the windows. Almost all of them have big signs with big lettering saying “NO LOITERING” with threats of prosecution. Hoodies, bags, and baggy clothes are almost as likely to be forbidden at convenience stores as the shirtless and shoeless are. Yet it’s not all as worrying as it might be.
Despite what I say in a previous post about my neighborhood in Cascadia, it is in a sort of transition. Whereas my neighborhood in Santomas was transitioning from a poor neighborhood to a yuppie white neighborhood, our neighborhood here in Soundview simply changed from a crime-ridden neighborhood to a safer (or less crime-ridden) one. Both the Northside neighborhood in Santomas and the Eastport neighborhood in Soundview have historically had crime problems, though things in Eastport (and Soundview on the whole, from what I understand) have changed in recent years.
I can definitely say that things feel different here than they did there. I wasn’t generally worried about my personal safety in Santomas, though I was frequently worried about my stuff. The main reason for that was the drug dealers living across the street. I didn’t see any turfwars brewing or anything like that, but I could quite easily see someone wanting to buy their next hit by bartering my car stereo or worse. I was horrified at the prospect of UPS leaving a package on our porch and not a Netflix shipment went by that I wasn’t worried that someone swiped it from the mailbox (which someone did, but fortunately only once).
Things are somewhat different here. Someone left two very large boxes on our porch here in Soundview the other day (racks from Target.com). I didn’t think to myself “Oh, thank god nobody took it!” I’m still going to see what I can do about having stuff put on our back porch instead of our front one, but I’m not going to go crazy with worry the way that I would have in Santomas. Hopefully life will not make a fool of me in that regard.
So what’s different here? On the whole I wouldn’t say that my current neighborhood is wealthier than it was there. In fact, the houses are smaller and we’re not as close to downtown so I would wager that there isn’t much difference. I’m honestly not entirely sure what it is. Part of it I think is that we live on a road that sees a lot of traffic coming through. We’re not ideally situated for someone to carry out some nefarious act. The lighting is also better. If I lived on one of the side streets, I might be more worried. Another difference is the lack of a transient population. The folks in the Zaulem Sound area are probably squishy liberal types when it comes to homeless, but mother nature isn’t nearly so kind to homeless people here as it was in Estacado.
A bigger difference, though, is the police. Some of it comes in the knowledge of knowing that they (and whatever social service agencies help) successfully cleaned up the area. Knowing that improvements have been made and that the police are monitoring the situation helps. Their presence here is felt. They’re very frequently driving through on patrol. If I were a thief, I wouldn’t feel all that comfortable breaking in somewhere.
In Santomas, the police weren’t around a whole lot. When they were, it seemed that they were there for a purpose. I say this because they always seemed to be in a hurry somewhere. I got the sense that they were there to take care of something and when they took care of it they would leave. In Soundview they’re often around taking care of business as with the case above or the other day when we were eating at a restaurant down the week and saw seven police cars speed by with their lights on, but often they just seem like they’re around rather than trying to get somewhere in particular.
Like I said, hopefully my time here will not make a fool out of me.