June, 2013 – we just have to address the topic of safety in our city after 3 weeks of Cleveland being in the national news, especially around the story of Ariel Castro and his “house of horrors” where 3 women were locked in his basement for a decade before escaping and providing a rare happy ending to a missing persons case. After 3 clients in one week asked us directly “how safe is your city, the news doesn’t seem good” we figured we would answer this one head on. And, if you’ve never stepped foot in Cleveland before, you would not know that this is a temporary black eye for our city and it doesn’t mean our region is not a safe place to live. Why? Here are a few reasons:
- The average Clevelander that we know would never normally be in the neighborhoods where these recent crimes that made the national news occurred. We rarely even drive through those neighborhoods on our way to somewhere else! These streets tend to be in a few specific areas of the city’s urban core, where unfortunately high poverty, crime and drugs are a way of life. Does this sound like anyplace you would be walking around? Us neither!
- Atlanta, New Orleans, Orlando, Houston, Washington DC, Memphis, Baltimore, Chicago, St. Louis – all have been on the list of most dangerous cities in the US, but most of us wouldn’t cross them off the list of places we’d like to visit (or relocate to) . All big cities have pockets that you should avoid and often that is as easy as not going into a bad neighborhood at 1 am to buy drugs (didn’t your mom always tell you that nothing good happens after midnight?) as that is where/when a lot of the problems happen. Random violence is rare, even in big cities like Cleveland and most of the violent crimes involve people who know each other or surrounding illegal activity.
- East Cleveland is NOT the same thing as “the east side of Cleveland”. East Cleveland is a small suburb just east of the city of Cleveland and for years has been plagued by high poverty, real estate foreclosures, unemployment, drugs and abandoned homes. So when you hear newcasters discussing violent crime happening here, it is not happening in the suburbs, trust us and we would never normally drive through neighborhoods like this on our Discover Cleveland orientations with clients. It’s not even a short cut to anywhere. East Cleveland does share a border with Cleveland Heights (a nice suburb) and many of the residents close to this border have done extraordinary things to insure their safety including block clubs & watches, neighborhood get togethers, etc.. Like the Forest Hill neighborhood.
- Of the nearly 3 million residents who call Greater Cleveland home, less than 400,000 actually live IN the city limits themselves. While many work in the city during the traditional 9-5 office hours, or visit ballparks, museums and restaurants in the city, most people return home at the end of the day to one of nearly 50 suburbs that surround Cleveland & Akron, where there are excellent public school options and more of a neighborhood feel. And, I say this as someone who grew up in the suburbs and has lived IN the city of Cleveland (Edgewater Park neighborhood on the westside, downtown and now Tremont just south of the city).
- When newscasters mention Cleveland, they are talking specifically about the city center itself, and less crime happens in the gentrified neighborhoods with high end real estate options (such as Tremont, Ohio City, Shaker Square, Gordon Square, Downtown’s Warehouse District and Gateway District etc.) than in the high crime pockets that you would rarely be in, except maybe as you commute to work to get in/out of town during rush hour with thousands of other commuters.
- The good news….the core of the city has been slowly rebuilding for 20 years. Where once E. 4th Street was wig & pawn shops, now are some of the best restaurants in town. That would have been laughed at 20 years ago. What was once a brownfield next to the idling steel mills is now Steelyard Commons, a big box shopping district that serves the population close to town and is the first time ever that a WalMart and a Target have anchored an urban (not suburban) shopping district together. The 1950’s downtown with ladies in gloves and men in hats visiting department stores is gone and a new reality is slowly taking place, but it all takes time. Now downtown is seen as a destination for experiences – theater, ballparks, lakefront, museums, things that you can’t do in the suburbs.
A wonderful story, that addresses these exact issues, by local writer Connie Schultz, who is married to Senator Sherrod Brown, appeared in the July 28th Plain Dealer is here.
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