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All That Glitters

by Dennis Marsoun

February 4,2005

You know, city living is not all sugar and spice! There is a dark side that permeates all cities, and that is crime.

It is incredible, and somewhat disheartening to watch as we grow into an urban environment. As Charlotte was rebuilt over the past 25 years, areas of opportunity for thieves diminished. Unsafe areas such as the old Earle Village were razed, and in its place grew the Garden District.

Retail left the city, so fewer and fewer shoppers walked our streets. Little pockets of residential areas were carefully looked after by the police.

The homeless, always an urban problem, would walk from the habitat on Fourth Street each morning up towards the food kitchen at the Urban Ministry located on North Tryon. By and large, they bothered no one on their journey.

Things have changed!

Employment has had a steady growth over that period of time, and with that growth, the inevitable growth in restaurants and bars. We have added a professional football team, and will soon add a professional basketball team. The city has become a lightening rod for people seeking activity.

The explosion, and continued growth, of urban residential living has added to that activity. Two grocery stores, and soon a full time drug store, have added more reasons to be Uptown. Other retailers are starting to explore this dynamic market as well.

All this activity also adds opportunity for those who would like to help us part with our money, either voluntarily or involuntarily. Since there is a reason for us to be Uptown, there now exists a reason for them to be Uptown.

Density increases also demands an increase in infrastructure. Street lights that go out need to be replaced quickly to eliminate those dark spots that could potentially become a hiding place for criminal elements. More police need to be added to patrols. Multi-dwelling buildings need to provide secured parking for their residents.

Another thing that needs to happen is for people who live in the city to react without fear to these challenges. These are our streets, our residences, our stores, and we will not be kept apart from them by crime.

We, as individuals, need to work with our community groups to effect changes that will keep us safer. We need to reach out to our neighbors, as well as the police, and not allow our quality of life to slip away.

As I complete this column, the elections in Iraq have just been concluded. While I certainly do not want to draw a comparison between the living conditions in Baghdad and Charlotte, I cannot help but think that of all the money, soldiers, and equipment spent thus far in this war, the most significant victory to date is the number of people who went to the polls. I believe future historians will look back and say this was the turning point in this war.

So, what can we learn from this, and how does this apply to Charlotte? The lesson is that people, not police or criminals, determine how they expect to live in a democracy. People will allow things to happen if they are weak. They will allow a police state to dictate to them how they will live, or they will allow a criminal element to intimidate them into how they will live. And in some cases, they will let religion dictate to them how they will live.

Or, they will say, “I’m mad as Hell, and I am not going to take this anymore!”

Over the past 4 months, I have missed being a victim of armed robbery twice. In one case, a close friend was one of the victims. In both cases, the perpetrators were not from Charlotte, just attracted by the opportunity. In both cases, the perpetrators were apprehended shortly after the event, identified, and are serving time.

All the victims escaped serious harm, but lost some sense of security. It was also due to their quick response to 911 that the criminals were caught. The victims haven’t changed their lifestyles since these events. They may be a little more careful, but they aren’t hiding inside, nor should they.

Crime is not going away, but it shouldn’t be encourage to grow.

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