By Scott Smith, @ourmaninchicago
7:00 PM CDT, June 21, 2014
Editor's Note: This op-ed piece is excerpted from a column Scott Smith originally published at ourmaninchicago.net.
I've lived in the Chicago area my whole life. I've lived in the city itself since 1998. I've never been robbed at gunpoint.
I guess there's a first time for everything.
I live in the Beverly neighborhood on the far South Side. It's generally considered a "safe" neighborhood. Wednesday night I was walking home from the train, an eight-minute walk. I was steps from my house when two guys robbed me. One had a gun. It was big. And it was sticking in my chest.
"Of course they have a gun," I thought. That's what you do when you want to turn a struggle into an obvious outcome. They got my wallet, my phone and my laptop bag. Physically, I'm fine because I didn't prize my possessions over my life.
Crime should not feel inevitable -- but it's felt like that lately in Chicago. The murder rate gets a lot of attention. But reports of robbery, assault and other crimes don't get frequent updates. Too often we think as long as it happens somewhere else or involves gangs, we don't need to worry. Eventually, it all hits home.
I know what happened to me is minor compared to the experiences of others with fewer resources. I walked away with an unpleasant experience. But most people who have a gun pointed at them in Chicago don't walk away, whether they're the target or someone else is. Too often we don't pay attention until it happens in our neighborhood.
It would be easy for me to give in to anger. I could blame this on a particular demographic group, start carrying a gun or just move somewhere else. But this is more complex than that: The actions of a few are not indicative of the many, it's tough to draw a gun on someone when they have one stuck in your chest and exactly how far away would I need to move to escape all crime?
So, I'm staying. Chicago's crime problem hit me on the street where I live. But it's not enough for me to talk about it, it's time for me to do more. If I'm not doing more, I'm not doing enough.
It starts with recognizing that no one is born a criminal. When you don't give people economic options and don't make them feel safe and don't invest in their neighborhoods, they'll do what they can to survive and use crime as an economic opportunity. We have to give all Chicago's neighborhoods the same attention we give to downtown.
It also means attending police beat meetings, sharing the information given with others and calling 911 when we see something out of the ordinary. The police can't be everywhere, no matter how many of them there are.
Finally, we have to stop thinking of neighborhood boundaries as the limit of our interest. When crime happens anywhere in the city, it affects all of us. We have to be willing to help be a part of the solution, however we're able.
I know I need to do more. I hope I motivate others to do the same.
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