One of my favorite episodes of South Park, EVER, is the one where Eric Cartman sings "In the Ghetto." That song is much on my mind this week as I think about the area we've chosen to live. And let's not forget the epically awesome Bed Intruder Song.
Back in 2006 when we sold the loft and were looking for a new place to call home there were a couple of neighborhoods we put big red X's over. This area, adjacent to the Temescal area (cute shops & great restaurants) and Berkeley - was one of them. We'd driven by a couple of houses that were for sale in the neighborhood and hated the vibe we got - thugs out on their front porches drinking 40s in the middle of a Saturday afternoon (sadly, this is not just racial stereotyping but actual scenes we witnessed), houses that clearly weren't being taken care of, graffiti on all of the public buildings.
We kept looking in other areas but couldn't find a house that spoke to us. And then I saw the listing for this house. I mapped it out and was disappointed to see that it fell just inside the area we had previously x'd off the map. But the photos. Oh, how I longed to see the inside of this house. I showed Alan and he liked what he saw, especially at the listing price (you have to remember, this was at the height of the housing boom so everything was super expensive, even in the worst neighborhoods). We drove over here before our regular tour of open houses in nicer, more "upscale" neighborhoods and instantly loved the street. We decided that we'd come by at the end of the day to check out the open house. We walked in and I fell in love.
We knew when we moved here this was a neighborhood in transition. We did not go into this blindly. But this immediate area? Adorable. We have great neighbors that look out for one another and every house - except for a couple - are well-cared for. There are artists, cooks, retired folks, nurses and tech folks all living on this street - essentially, we've got a lot of walks of life and a lot of racial diversity. And for awhile this area's crime stats were looking good, real good.
But that's all changing.
In the last year we've had shootouts on our block - mere houses away - based on an ongoing gang drug war. We've had neighbors' friends get mugged, cars broken into and houses robbed. Yesterday our neighbors across the street became the latest victims, in broad daylight. Yes, in the middle of the damn day, in a 1.5 hour period when they left the house. I was here the whole time and didn't hear a thing. So far the worst that's happened to us is someone cased the Mini when we forgot to lock it. We keep nothing in our cars so thankfully they didn't take anything.
We've got a very active neighborhood watch who means well and does an excellent job of keeping everyone up to speed on what's going on, but we have absolutely no police support. We can't arrest these thugs. And I'm not about to approach them for fear of getting my ass shot. I hate to say it, but I'm afraid to live here. What if you come home in the middle of being robbed? Yeah, I don't want to be the one to surprise an intruder. I am no Antoine Dodson. I do not want to go looking for the homeboy.
But what can you do? We've all complained multiple times to the police about suspicious activity, loitering and ongoing drug deals. Nothing happens.
I'd love to get the hell out of dodge, but I guarantee you the banks aren't going to let us walk away from this one. We're $150k (at least) underwater. We couldn't sell this place and leave even if we wanted to. So here we are, continuing to brainstorm with our neighbors "creative ways" to put the thugs on notice (seriously, I'm not kidding - this is the big plan to keep us safe) and reporting disturbances that mean nothing to our local politicians. I've told Alan if I get held up, I'm outta here, house & credit be damned.
The sad thing about all of this? With the exception of what is becoming increasingly obvious targeting, the neighborhood is actually pretty great. Quick access to public transportation and the freeways, and walking distance to excellent restaurants. But the thugs and dealers are effing with us and there's no recourse.