I’ve mentioned before that walking can create a very vulnerable situation for a walker. A person out walking is not only exposed to the elements but also to possible, inescapable harm. This harm could come in the form of unsafe sidewalks, a mean dog, an aggressive driver and even other people. It’s this last that I find most disturbing as it is hard to predict or prepare for it. Since commencing this project I’ve had numerous friends and family members express concern for my safety while I am out walking, usually alone. I have been told to not walk down certain streets. In February 2011 a Lansing State Journal article was written about my project. There were some comments made on the internet version implying that even stepping onto certain streets with my camera would result in getting shot at. Ironically, I had already walked those streets and found them very pleasant.
On my computer I follow quite a few news stations using Twitter and Facebook. I have seen the multiple stories about Lansing homicides, assaults and sexual attacks. I do not enjoy reading about these crimes. In a recent Business Insider article Lansing was ranked 24th most dangerous city (with over 100,000 residents) in America. On the other hand other statistics has shown Lansing’s property crime rate steadily decreasing since 2005. However, violent crimes, though still less than 2005 has been increasing since 2008. Both property and violent crime rates are higher than Michigan’s crime rate and the national average. Sometimes I wonder if just the proliferation of media access just makes all of us more aware of the crimes. We see multiple posts for each crime with updates coming in throughout the day and into the next. Sometimes a wanted person’s photo is posted. It’s a bit unnerving looking into the face of a possible criminal between photos of my friend’s vacation and that cute kitten post. The social media sites have also made us all more connected with each other. I am now aware of my acquaintances that getting robbed for the second time. I also read my friends lamenting about the loud and abusive neighbors. All these occurrences get added to some sort of measuring system.
For City Saunter I have walked over 150 miles of Lansing’s streets. I have walked back alleys. I have walked where a majority of the homes are boarded up. I have walked in areas where the day before a police sting caught a large prostitution ring (I thought it would be safer). I’ve had male drivers follow me around asking if I needed a ride. My polite decline usually sends them on their way; usually. More common are the polite walkers, the smiles and waves from residents and on many occasions the run in with at least one familiar face. Despite watching crime statistics roll in day after day, I will hold firm to my own statistics of kindness, friendliness and goodness. I think those type of people are more numerous than the others.
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