Crime - Reality vs. Perception
By Jody Reese
A few years ago I tried to hire a cleaning woman, but I couldnít get any of them to come to my house, which was on Pine Street across from the Valley Cemetery.
Apparently the neighborhood was too dangerous.
That got me thinking. When I asked around, others told me my neighborhood was a rough one. Street crime was a problem, there were people dealing drugs and the area was plagued by prostitution and other criminal activity.
The only problem was that this didnít match the reality of my neighborhood. There were no drug dealers on the corners and no prostitutes that I could see. In fact, my apartment, which was left unlocked most of the time, was never burglarized. My car, which was left unlocked most of the time, was never burglarized. My neighbors were just like meógetting up and going to work each day.
So why did people think I lived in a bad neighborhood?
Thatís all they had ever heard about it.
While Channel 9 and The Union Leader didnít purposefully paint my neighborhood as dangerous, their choice of stories and how they covered them led people to believe that the center city is a dangerous place.
This is not uncommon. Local television stations and daily newspapers across the country lead with sensational stories and pictures. Itís an easy way to get your paper read and get people watching the 11 p.m. news. Recently, The Union Leader led off its local section with the picture of a police officer picking up bloody clothes following a stabbing. WMUR almost always leads off with the latest bank or convenience store robbery. When I was a reporter for The Union Leader, I recall being sent to a bank robbery and sitting around a parking lot. WMUR arrived and, seeing little story, began going door to door asking local residents how they felt about the robbery. The problem was the robber hadnít even brandished a gun. Yes, it was a crime, but was it really worth leading off the stateís newscast that day? No.
Crime gets our attention. People who get up every day to go to work or help in the community donít make the news because theyíre the norm. In most American cities, local television and daily newspapers donít report bank robberies or even gang murders because they have become so common place. We need to keep crime and crime reporting in perspective. Itís rare. We live in one of the safest cities in America.
That doesnít mean you should never think about it. Letís just be reasonable about it and not let fear dictate our lives.
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