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The relative safety of a small town

March 16, 2011

Recently, I was browsing the web and came across this news story of a woman in Miami-Dade, Florida, who was nearly run over when she tried to stop the guys who smashed her car’s window at a gas station and stole her purse, which she had left in plain view on the front seat.

I was shocked at how stupid the woman was to leave her purse vulnerable and to jump in front of a moving car.

I was also shocked by how foreign the crime seemed to me. I’ve gotten quite used to the relative safety of small-town living in Scottsbluff.

It’s funny how one becomes accustomed to one’s surroundings.

After living in college town Ames, Iowa, for several years, I moved to Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, which is a bigger city located a relatively short highway or train ride from downtown Chicago. The proportion of strangers out and about who might take advantage of an unguarded moment on my part increased.

I got pretty nervous when, shortly after we moved to “Chambana,” I read of a man getting held up at gunpoint in his own driveway at 8 p.m.

Then, I accompanied husband when he attended a bug conference in Durban, South Africa.

Wow.

Here’s what the U.S. State Department has to say about crime in South Africa.

Every home in the northwestern part of Durban where we stayed, which is “generally considered to be safer than the city center,” was surrounded by high walls and razor wire. Aggressive guard dogs and armed security personnel were common. When we took a taxi through the city center, the driver was very nervous and warned us to keep the doors locked and to put our bags on the floor, out of sight. We got through it OK, but I was on a constant state of alert nearly the whole time we were in the country.

We got back to Chambana, and the city that had at first seemed so threatening to me now appeared to be a peaceful paradise. None of the homes had razor wire around them!

And then I moved to Scottsbluff.

In one of my first blog posts about the area, I communicated my surprise at being directed by a rental car company to leave a car unlocked, with the keys inside. That was my first indication that things operate a bit differently in Scottsbluff than in other places I’ve lived. The crime rate is considerably lower.

Granted, the Nebraska Panhandle is not utopia. We have poverty and drug and alcohol problems. We have theft, assaults and even the occasional, through rare, murder.

Out of habit, I still keep my home locked, keep my car locked, and never leave valuables in plain sight in my car.

But, boy, do I appreciate living in a place where a smash-and-grab robbery in broad daylight is about as likely as a motorcycle-riding grizzly bear!

Copyright 2011 by Katie Bradshaw

2 Comments leave one →
  1. March 16, 2011 5:16 pm

    How much we take for granted–

  2. March 16, 2011 7:07 pm

    Went to the bank the other day to get some cash. Went through the drive-through. When I got my cash ($200 in twenties) I placed it on the console of my pickup, as I often do, planning to put it in my wallet when I got out of the pickup. But I forgot. Went to the hardware store and ran into friends, as usual, so a five-minute stop took an hour. When I got back to my pickup the cash was still sitting there for all the world to see. I wonder how long it would have stayed in place in a city? Not that I recommend leaving cash laying around, but it is nice to live in a low-crime/low population area.

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