Sunday, January 22, 2006

You haven't lost, you've just awakened

An opinion piece about Allentown, PA:
If the nights have become this scary in a quiet west end neighborhood, imagine what it is like in the downtown's more troubled neighborhoods. Since then, Allentown's murder rate has continued to climb and the robberies have continued unabated. I, like so many others, have, for the first time, succumbed to the fear. I no longer visit my favorite Mexican restaurant on Seventh Street, or walk on Hamilton after dark to get something to eat in between meetings. I carefully choose where I will go in the city, when I will go, and what route I will take; my subconscious weighing the risks. I am locked in my house and in my car. My husband is now licensed to carry a gun. The bad guys have won. We have lost ... at least for now.

But the loss of a sense of security in a city I love and have served is insignificant compared to the loss of Allentown's future. The wave of crime engulfing this city is a subject of conversation at every meeting and social gathering I attend. Headlines like, ''Allentown merchant scares off thugs,'' and ''Staying cool during a robbery can save your life,'' greet readers over morning coffee. Friends call to say they've seen ''us'' on CNN; Bethlehem's bat wielding store clerk is our icon.

Allentown's acting police chief, Roger MacLean, was quoted recently saying "vigilantism isn't the answer," but that the police "need eyes and ears in the community." For the past four years, Allentown's dedicated neighborhood associations and crime watch groups have been undervalued and unappreciated. Chief MacLean will be well served to rebuild those relationships.
Protecting yourself against criminals isn't vigilantism, it is your obligation as a law-abiding citizen. One piece of advice: Your husband's gun isn't going to help you much unless he plans on following you around 24 hours a day. You should get one for yourself.