I know just how far the most recent homicides in Oakland were from the school where I teach. A number of my students have to walk past the intersection every morning. The tatters of caution tape still hang loosely around the telephone poles and no parking signs. The kids probably don't think about it much, but I do.
This morning I awoke to the news that, according to a survey released Monday by Morgan Quitno Press, an independent research publisher in Lawrence, Kansas, I live in the twenty-fifth most dangerous city in the United States. I'm not sure I really needed the survey to tell me that Oakland can be a scary place. On CNN's Money page, I went straight to the "Quality of Life" section, where I found that the "personal crime risk" for Oakland stands at 258, where the national average, and compares with "best places" that have a personal crime risk of 58. That would be five times greater. The web page helpfully points out that "lower is better." Got it.
Somewhere in the back of my mind, I began to hear an old King Crimson song: "Thela Hun Ginjeet." In the middle of the song, voice recordings are heard. Adrian Belew talks about his experience with members of street gangs and the police, trying to get voice recordings for the song: "Well, first of all, I couldn't even see his face. I couldn't see his face. He was holding a gun in his hand. Umm... I was thinking...This is a dangerous place...This is a dangerous place..."
Still, here's the solace I could take away from this piece of statistical profundity: The top two most dangerous cities on the list? (Insert David Letterman drum roll and flourish here) St. Louis, Missouri and Detroit, Michigan. For those of you who managed to sit through this year's World Series, those two cities might ring a bell. I'm sure that a further study needs to be conducted into the correlation between professional baseball franchises and personal crime risk. Maybe there is a connection to all of that stealing and hitting after all. Just don't hang around the stadium on Bat Day.