City Murder Rates Don’t Worry Everyone

We asked residents from Chicago to L.A. if they feel safe.

Through July 3rd, Philadelphia saw 187 recorded murders in 2012. That’s 22 more than last year, 34 more than 2010, and just 16 behind an infamously bloody 2007.

Strangely enough, though, Philadelphia isn’t the city making national headlines for its violence (or lack thereof). In recent weeks, the focus has been on Chicago—where 40 people were shot over Memorial Day weekend and 250 people were murdered in the first six months of 2012—and New York—which holds three times as many people as Chicago (and more than five times as many as Philly) and is on pace to set a record low for murders.

I’m a resident of Queen Village, and I feel plenty safe walking home at night, even if it’s after one (or five) too many drinks at Tapestry. As Philadelphians in other areas of the city are stabbed over haircuts and shot over cigarettes, I don’t really feel the effect of the violence, even as it spreads to Catharine Street and areas of Society Hill because, as always, the violence seems pretty segregated in Philly. In an effort to see if this was the case in other major cities, I called some friends and connections who live in places that have seen some of the most murders (regardless of population) through the halfway point of 2012 and asked if they felt safe.

Cory Fay, general manager of a Hampton Inn in suburban Chicago, says he feels safe living in the city, northwest of downtown.

“The crime is pretty segregated here, but I know there have been shootings in my neighborhood,” he says. “I don’t feel unsafe walking around really late at night. But, that could be because I’m pretty much huge. I’ve definitely talked to a few women who won’t walk home through certain areas because they’ve heard of stuff happening.”

A teacher in Queens, Catherine Kuhns, says she doesn’t necessarily live in the safest neighborhood, but feels her lifestyle separates her from the violence.

“I currently live way up on the Upper West Side close to Morningside Heights, which is also pretty crime heavy,” she says. “But, that has a lot to do with drugs. As I am not a drug dealer, I feel pretty safe. Maybe I’m just naive. Probably.”

There were 160 murders in Detroit—a city of less than 715,000 people—through June 24th. Spencer Olinek works at an economic development agency and says that, despite the murder rate, he feels safe.

“I live about a mile from work. I walk when I can, including after dark. I’ve never felt unsafe. I bike all over the city. I can acknowledge the fact that it’s a function of the neighborhood I live in. I think you just have to be smart. That might mean avoiding certain areas or certain types of businesses at certain times.”

In Los Angeles, there were 272 murders through the end of June. One of those occurred earlier this year in North Hollywood Park. A recent double-murder in North Hollywood resulted in a shootout that ended when LAPD officers shot and killed a suspect on an off-ramp of the I-170 freeway. Tony Yacenda, a filmmaker who lives in the area, says the violence in the city hasn’t affected him.

“It honestly took me a second to remember what [murders] you were talking about, that’s how little I think about those things.”