Commentary

Granados: Safety is a state of mind

CommentaryApril 5, 2014 

VIGILSTANDALONE-NE-010913-TEL

About 100 people turned out for a vigil for victims of a violent home invasion at the Remnant of Christ Fellowship Church in Raleigh in 2013. The random attack leaves the author with lingering questions of safety and security.

TRAVIS LONG — tlong@newsobserver.com Buy Photo

In January, two men broke into a house in the Oakwood neighborhood of downtown Raleigh. The couple who lived in the house were home. What was a robbery became a sexual assault, and while trying to protect his wife, the husband was shot in the back. He is now paralyzed.

It’s a horrible story, and one that hits me with a personal, visceral blow because I I live just a few streets down from the crime scene. Not in Oakwood proper, but close. The incident left me with an uncomfortable wariness. .

My life has been relatively sheltered by crime. The incident, however, brought back in my mind a time months before when someone broke into my home. Neither I nor my wife were around, and not much was stolen, but the incident made me think. What if we had been there?

We called our neighborhood police officer, and he requested extra patrols on our street. He was responsive and I felt safer knowing our local police were attuned to our fears. But even so, things happen.

Growing up in North Raleigh, I never feared for my safety. Crime was a distant concern — something that happened to other people. But how do today’s residents feel?

Pretty good, actually. I reached out a few North Raleigh residents to gauge how safe they feel in their neighborhoods, and by and large, they say they’re comfortable. But I think it’s rare for anyone to feel fully secure.

Joe Hilburn lives in Hunter Hills off Carpenter Pond Road near Black Horse Run. He told me he subscribes to a free Internet service that shows crimes in the area, and thankfully, his neighborhood has been pretty crime free — just a few break-ins a few years back.

He and his neighbors take a number of precautions to keep themselves safe. They have a neighborhood watch, and they were told by a sheriff’s representative to periodically request a drive-through of the neighborhood. They do. There is a blog for the neighborhood where people can post suspicious activity. All good precautions.

Hilburn hopes that technology will allow law enforcement to become even better at their job of protecting and serving.

“I hope that law enforcement is looking at new/additional ways to use the increasing amount of data that is readily available from various county, city, state and federal agencies to be more proactive on how to be more efficient and effective in protecting the citizens,” he said via e-mail.

Bill McCrorie lives in Springdale Estates. He said he thinks police do a good job, but that residents themselves can do more to protect themselves. Some of his suggestions were similar to what Hilburn said his neighborhood does. But McCrorie pointed out something I hadn’t thought about: don’t post your life on Facebook.

“That is simple and smart, but lately smart people have not been so smart,” he said, also via e-mail. “People will not e-mail a credit card number, or leave a sheet a paper with their Social security number visible, but will announce they are leaving town with the family for a month of fun in another city or country.”

That’s one I could learn from. When my wife and I went on a honeymoon, I kept my Facebook status updated with regular photos from the trip. Not so smart, in retrospect.

After the incident in Oakwood, I installed motion sensor lights and determined to keep the house well lit at night. We have a fairly robust watch group on our street. There are lots of noisy dogs — and a few chickens, though I wouldn’t count on them in a fight.

But would any of that stop what happened that night in January? After all, the residents of Oakwood are a pretty watchful and careful bunch. But I have to hope. The only other option is giving in to the chaos of it all.

Alex Granados writes on interesting people, places and traditions in North Raleigh and beyond. Contact him via email at agranadoster@gmail.com.

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