The New York Times today ran a short article on a series of recent sexual assaults that have occurred in this quaint, normally safe, University town. The article itself is really nothing of note, but the reactions to the “wave of spiraling crime” and the surrounding quiet hysteria have been intriguing.
My very good friend, Mark, runs a great blog, which features mostly posts of his beloved town of Ypsilanti, which borders Ann Arbor. Mark’s blog keeps me up on Ypsi and all of its complications and successes. Ypsi, by any measure, is, for a town of a mere 20,000 people, one of the most crime ridden areas of the state. Ypsi’s crime rates well exceeds national averages in just about every category. To be fair, crime in Ypsi is not spread uniformly across the city, but restricted to certain areas and demographics, which makes the situation more, not less, demanding of action.
Ann Arbor, on the other hand, is a safe, college town, where women walk alone at night, and crime is mostly restricted to stealing from college kids who don’t lock their doors, or drunken university stupidity. I feel as safe in Ann Arbor as I do in Japan.
What’s notable to me is that crime in Ann Arbor would merit a feature in the New York Times, whereas crime, real endemic crime in Ypsilanti generates zero publicity. Crime in Ann Arbor is like your occasional case of pneumonia, bad and life threatening, but temporary and curable. Crime in Ypsi (and it’s big sister Detroit), with its deep and entrenched social causes, is more akin to a miserable set of chronic afflictions.
I would suggest to the New York Times, that they visit the most troubled areas of Southeastern Michigan and write on what’s been going on here for the past 50 years. Unemployment, the defunding of public education, drugs and economic flight have left the poor of Michigan in a veritable social prison, unable to leave, but unable to make a life here and universally hated throughout the country.
Random sexual assaults, while serious, happen only occasionally in Ann Arbor. In places like Detroit, Flint and Ypsilanti, they happen on a daily basis. The victims are no less real, nor no less damaged.
Articles about threats to the life and welfare of wealthy white people may garner sympathy from other wealthy white people, but really just end up distorting the conversation of social problems in America. The greatest threats to life and welfare are being experienced by the poor on a daily basis and very unfortunately go ignored by the popular press and the electorate. I would beg the New York Times to put things in real perspective.