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Letter from the Editor

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I moved to Memphis in 1992. We bought a house in Midtown, made friends with our neighbors, and felt at home in no time. One night, six months after we moved in, I left my car parked on the street and stupidly left a laptop on the front seat. The next morning, a window was smashed and the computer was gone.

When I told friends about the incident, I got variations of the following: "That's Memphis" or "That's Midtown. Get used to it." Eighteen years and three Midtown houses later, that's still the only time I've been a crime victim in Memphis. No, wait. I had a potted plant taken off my porch steps three years ago. But still, not so bad and not out of line with other cities where I've lived. As they say, "That's life in the big city."

Crime happens. But most criminals aren't masterminds. They are opportunists. Being smart with your possessions, calling the cops when you see suspicious behavior, and getting to know your neighbors can greatly lower your odds of being victimized. Yes, the crime rate is down in Memphis, but I'm under no illusions that if I left a laptop in my car on the street overnight, it wouldn't be gone by morning.

Realtors like to say "location, location, location." As Bianca Phillips' cover story in this issue makes clear, neighborhood blight dramatically ups the odds of being a crime victim. If you are located near run-down housing, where criminals tend to live, your chances of being robbed or burglarized are much higher. Bad location, bad location ...

But there are simple ways to fight back and keep yourself informed. I've signed up with Memphis Police Department's crime watch and get daily e-mails that let me know of any crime that happens within a half-mile of my house. I've learned, for instance, that a certain parking lot on Union, two blocks from my house, is hit every couple of weeks by someone who breaks into a vehicle. So I keep my eyes open. Monday night, when I turned into my driveway, a man was sitting on my sidewalk steps. He waved as I pulled around my house to the garage. By the time, I'd gotten out, he was walking away. Hmm, I thought, very suspicious. The next morning, on my way to work, I saw the guy mowing a neighbor's yard. He waved for me to stop. I did, and he came up and introduced himself and said, "I didn't mean to scare you last night. I was just taking a break. This is a big yard."

And a big city. And that's life in it. Be careful out there.

Bruce VanWyngarden

brucev@memphisflyer.com

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