My wife and I have enjoyed living in the Powderhorn Park neighborhood in Minneapolis for the past 4.5 years. Our neighborhood is viewed with some skepticism by a lot of people. People (mostly those who have chosen to live in a more suburban setting) aren’t always sure how to react when I tell them I live here.
When my wife bought the house back in the summer of 2006, she was excitedly telling a friend about her new home. Her friend’s response was a snarly, “Oh, why did you buy there?”, a not-so-subtle implication that my wife had chosen a poor neighborhood. On several occasions since, people have said something like, “Oh Powderhorn! That used to be such a nice neighborhood. I lived there for 10 years. I was sad to leave, but it just got too dangerous.”
Powderhorn has been in the news a lot over the past week after an unfortunate event where four teenagers committed a string of sexual assaults one evening – all of which was within a couple blocks of my home. It’s unnerving and frightening to hear about stories like this.
When we judge a neighborhood, we tend to focus on the bad things that happen there. We look at crime rates, and decide that the best neighborhoods are the ones with the lowest crime rates. It’s natural and wise to want to minimize the risk that you or a family member will become a victim.
But there’s another important metric we could use to judge the strength of a neighborhood. Maybe we should give more consideration to how neighborhoods respond when something unfortunate does happen.
Last night, hundreds of neighborhood residents attended a candlelight vigil in Powderhorn Park in a symbolic response to the unfortunate assaults that happened there a week earlier. This is not a response you’ll find in every neighborhood. The strength of the Powderhorn Park neighborhood is not that it is free from crime. Unfortunate events happens here (and will continue to happen here and elsewhere for the forseeable future). But when they do, the neighborhood has a history of responding with strength and solidarity in support of the victims in ways that not all neighborhoods can match. And I wonder if that isn’t more important than preventing crimes in the first place.
What do you think readers? How does crime influence where you choose to live? How do you judge the strength of a neighborhood?