Urban Danger: Life in a Neighborhood of Strangers

Urban Danger: Life in a Neighborhood of Strangers

Urban Danger: Life in a Neighborhood of Strangers

Urban Danger: Life in a Neighborhood of Strangers

Excerpt

In a small, ethnically diverse neighborhood enmeshed in the vast sprawl of a major American city the residents have developed their own strategies for coping with the danger that surrounds them. One young Chinese woman never returns home alone on foot after dark. When she arrives by car, she honks her horn to alert her parents and then dashes the twenty feet to her door. A white man cautiously packs his suitcases into his car under cover of darkness before he leaves for a trip to escape being noticed by potential burglars. A middle-aged black woman sneaks surreptitiously from her home at 6:00 A.M. to do her laundry before the neighborhood youths gather in the laundromat to visit and smoke. She is anxious not to leave her home vacant, even for a few minutes, as an invitation to the burglars she constantly fears. Yet, in the same neighborhood, a young black woman moves freely, visiting neighbors late at night with no thought of danger. Young men rendezvous in dark secluded hallways even though they are aware that they risk being mugged. A Chinese man reputed to possess marvelous skill in Chinese martial arts is studiously avoided by youths choosing profitable and safe robbery victims. He walks through the project without fear. And an adult black man declares that his neighborhood is very safe because he knows everyone and everyone knows him.

All of these people face the same hazards, yet their attitudes, fears, and modes of coping vary enormously. Why do they respond so differently to the same risks? Why are some residents afraid of crime, and others unafraid? These ques-

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