Saturday, August 6, 2016

Safety in Harlem

Gunshots are a problem.

I live in Harlem. I think it's a good neighborhood. I'm not scared walking down the street. My mom visited from the Chicago suburbs. She wasn't scared walking down the street, but in the 15 months I've lived in my apartment, I've heard gunshots at least three times.

Fall 2015 - I was newly pregnant. I was on the phone with my cousin Shantae and I told her I was sitting on the ground in the back of the apartment because I heard gunshots earlier. I was afraid someone was going to shoot me in the stomach. She reminded me that I live on the 11th floor, so that's virtually impossible, but I was scared to death, nonetheless.

November 2015 - My mom was in town for Thanksgiving and we heard shots. I didn't even remember this, but my mom reminded me.

Spring 2016 - My mom heard shots outside and went to the window (I don't know why you would go to the window and said she saw a guy with a gun shooting behind him. I've never seen anyone actually shoot a gun outside of video footage. My mom hadn't either. Still, she wasn't like "you need to move away from this neighborhood."

July 2016 - I definitely heard some shots outside. Like a lot of them. And this was after the 4th of July. Like way after.

I'm writing this to remind myself that my neighborhood isn't exactly a bastion of safety. It really hit home for me when I was doing a nanny interview and the nanny asked: How is the neighborhood and I go "in terms of what?" and she goes "anything? I don't know this neighborhood well."

And I lied and said it was a good neighborhood with lots of parks because I wanted her to consider us. The truth is, I wouldn't want my young children playing in most of the parks near my home because they smell like piss and there are too many adults around.

The last neighborhood that I lived in that I regularly heard gunshots was Uptown in Chicago. It always baffled me because again, I lived across the street from a Jewel and a planet fitness and it "seemed" safe.

I also wonder if this is just a byproduct of living in a city. Do all cities have a higher incidence of gun violence than suburbs and if I decide to be a city dweller, I should just expect to hear shots. (Don't worry, it sounds as stupid to me typing it as it does to you reading it.)

So if we make the decision to leave the city, I have this blog post to remind me that it's not just about cheaper rent, but also about the safety of my children. I've convinced myself that my neighborhood is safe and I "feel" like it is. But feelings are not facts. And four shootings in the last 15 months are likely too many to consider a place safe.

Does anything about your current (or former) neighborhood give you pause?

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