I’ve been thinking a lot about crime and safety in New Orleans lately. Over the weekend, a girl planning to move here emailed me asking for advice about where to live. She included this:
I keep hearing that New Orleans is not the safest city and I was down there for a work trip about a month ago. I really liked the city, but did get the sense that you have to be pretty careful in certain areas. It almost seems that it's different even street by street.
I understand why she was asking this. New Orleans often makes national news for violence, such as the shooting on Mother’s Day or the shooting during Mardi Gras on Bourbon Street. But I emailed her back saying, "Yes, some places are safer than others, but for the most part, I feel safe." I also reminded her that New Orleans is just like any other big city, “where you shouldn’t walk down a street by yourself at night that is poorly lit or deserted.”
And that’s honestly how I feel. While there is a lot of crime in New Orleans, I would never tell someone not to move here because of it.
But then on Monday, my apartment building notified all of the residents that someone broke into a car in our parking lot and allegedly stole a bag that was in the car. This made me feel uneasy. Someone at night actually wandered near my apartment building and smashed through a car window and took something? I was glad that the apartment staff sent out the notice, but it still made me nervous. I got over it quickly, though, after Chris and I talked about it. “Well, bad things happen everywhere," we agreed. "We still feel safe here.”
But the idea of feeling “safe” has been nagging at me because I feel like we are constantly bombarded with so many news stories of crime. Nationally, there’s the George Zimmerman trial and the gun debate. Locally, I was sad to hear about Ashley Qualls, whom fellow blogger Eve Kidd Crawford wrote about last week.
But is the idea of "feeling safe" in the mind of the beholder? Columbia, Mo., where I used to live, is known for being a cute Midwestern college town with great public schools, beautiful bike trails and a big university campus. It’s a popular place to raise a family or retire. Recently, however, there have been reports of shootings there. Those have been making me feel uneasy, too, since I still have family and friends there. So now I’m wondering if people moving there have been saying, “I keep hearing Columbia is not the safest city…” But I know if I heard that I would say, “What?!? What are you talking about?!?! Columbia is a great place to live!” Even with the reports of crime, I would never tell someone to stay away from the area.
I think most New Orleanians feel the same way about New Orleans as I do about Columbia. New Orleans is a city known for its crime, but I have yet to hear a native say, “Oh you shouldn’t have moved here. New Orleans is too dangerous.”
I enjoy living in New Orleans and I have told multiple people that they should move here, too, because there is so much to do, eat and hear. While I do feel safe 99 percent of the time, when I hear about break-ins or shootings, I get a little nervous. I hope one day New Orleanians will feel a little better about the crime rate in this city, but at least there are enough reasons to love New Orleans that are making people want to move here.