First, town-gown relations in many communities are often fraught with tension and SC is no exception. The fact that we are a private school with a history of being predominately white and middle class, yet are located in a poor, predominantly African American neighborhood is also not exceptional. It does, however, create additional challenges.
Whenever crime occurs, we seek explanations, empathize with the victims, and search for ways to protect ourselves. These are all useful reactions. At places where obvious differences are used to separate us from them, the “good” guys from the “bad” guys, it’s easy to fall into overly-simplified explanations and responses.
We should do whatever we can to protect ourselves and our college from harm. At the same time, there are bits of information that may also promote more effective behaviors through better understanding. Here are some things to think about. First, the “wealth” gap between SC and our neighbors is a reality. Even though students may feel poor, they possess valuable/desirable things and a more affluent lifestyle, and, from the perspective of some of our young neighbors, may appear to possess the resources to easily replace what’s lost or stolen. Being aware of this and adapting behaviors may be useful. Street crime rates correlate with the economy — when things are good, there’s less crime. When things aren’t so good, there’s more.
Also, it would be inaccurate to present SC as innocent victims to criminal and other negative events that happen with our neighbors. First, over the years, we’ve been made aware of violence and other crimes that happens between students — fights, assaults, theft, sexual assault, etc. And, conversations with students and community residents make it clear that there is a long list of grievances that our neighbors have about us. Loud parties and disrespectful treatment of neighbors and their property create resentment and undermine much of the good work that members of the SC community do with and for our neighbors.
One of us recently heard from several students that their perception is that street harassment cuts both ways and that the recent on-campus crimes have occurred alongside increased harassment of neighborhood youth by some SC students. This is not to excuse the violent attacks that have occurred, but only to comment that teasing, disrespecting and otherwise harassing people from the community who are on campus does not support positive neighborhood relations.
Finally, while it is true that students and others on campus have been victimized by off-campus assailants, the more common victims of such criminals are the people who live in the neighborhood. A majority of crime is committed by a small minority of residents against the silent majority of neighborhood residents who are working hard to live their lives in peace. In this regard, we share much more with our neighbors than the walls of separation might suggest.
Susan Joel and