Reality Check

Last year I was sailing near Victoria, British Columbia and saw several beautiful houses near the shoreline. The local crew on the boat explained that the properties were most likely owned by rich Americans who had moved north to escape the pervasive crime in the US.

The British wife of a school friend frequently tells me that she would love to live in America, if not for the dangers crime would pose for their young daughter. She feels they cannot take the risk.

And during the 2004 Republican Convention, a lady friend visiting New York from Italy told me that the police power on display was proof positive that the US is a dangerous country. Why else would we need so many cops?

There is a general perception by Europeans that rampant crime is a condition of American life.

It's not surpising that we got this reputation. In the 1970’s and 80's, crime in American cities ran out of control. I, for one, was almost murdered on a sunny afternoon in the Boston Commons in 1973. Two thugs tried to choke me with a homemade garrote. Fortunately, I escaped with my life, if not my hockey equipment.

However in the last twenty years of living in New York, Philadelphia, Seattle and San Diego, I have not even witnessed a crime, let alone been attacked, robbed, or had my home burgled.

Not so living in Europe.

My house in a leafy suburb of Brussels was robbed three times in two years. The last time, the robbers simply pulled a truck up and removed every unattached object from the house. My car was keyed, smashed, jumped on, and finally burned to an empty shell. Roving gangs of Muslim thugs were a common site in areas throughout the city.

In London, on a route I walked daily between St. John’s Wood and my school's campus on Regent's Park, I was regularly harassed and threatened by men loitering in front of the London Mosque.

And during one year in Paris, my girlfriend was attacked in broad daylight across the street from the Arch de Triumph, I was robbed in the Metro, and incidents of petty crime and intimidation seemed commonplace. This year France has experienced a kind of rioting and violence not seen here for many years.

Crime in the US is clearly not what it used to be. Granted, murder rates are still very high, which is no small thing. But as our crime rates came down in the 1990’s, Europe’s took a precipitous climb in the opposite direction. Serious property crime is epidemic in the major continental cities. It has been a stunning reversal of roles.

European perceptions of crime in American have not changed as the streets have gotten safer here. Nor do Americans appreciate how dangerous European cities can be, even if one does stay in the "right" neighborhoods. People on both sides of the Atlantic need to appreciate the changes and take a reality check.

2 comments:

Anonymous

3:56 PM

Good article...the answer to your question is pretty straight forward. Europeans get their news about America from the same source as Americans do...the mainstream media only reports what is in lock step with their agenda. Our news agencies create the news and no longer report on it. Its a wonder we can still see what is really going on in our world today...its mostly the opposite of what the press is saying.

Dymphna

3:20 PM

Thanks for the link. If you don't mind, I'll use the post as an update to *my* post just for a different viewpoint.

Very detailed.

Thanks for coming by, too.