I went for a walk down to Broadway, where the lights are much brighter (literally), and where you can forget all your troubles, forget all your cares...until you get mugged. Actually, I don't think it's that bad except that everyone I see gives me the evil eye. My guess is that they are, in fact, afraid of me, but they show it differently.
At any rate, I found a wallet on the sidewalk and walked up to an idling Crown Vic to return it to some not-quite-undercover cops because I am a goody-good do-gooder. I said, "Are you cops?" (probably not a good question to ask at night if you're carrying a suspicious looking camera bag). Hesitantly, they said yes. I think they felt less on edge when I gave them the wallet rather than pulling a gun or blowing myself up. As I walked away, they called me back and asked what I was doing here. I said, "I'm a photographer!" as if that were reason enough to stroll around downtown at night. The cop warned, "You know, this area has the highest crime in the city." to which I replied, "Well, I figured with all these bright lights, it can't be that bad."
He said that I was a "crime of opportunity" because it would be so easy to steal my camera stuff. I didn't say anything, but "crime of opportunity" sounds like a good thing. If anything, Lawrence needs more opportunity for young people, though I suppose it would be better if it weren't the criminal kind. At any rate, he told me to be careful before I scoffed at the suggestion and skipped away into the night.
One big problem with Lawrence is that everybody is afraid of everybody else. The fear builds on itself and probably leads to a lot of pointless crime. I wonder how many people have been killed or injured because someone was afraid that the other person would hurt him first.
If I'm walking on the sidewalk in Lawrence, people on the sidewalk stare at me as I pass, and cars at intersections anxiously pull away before I get too close to the car -- apparently everyone is a potential car-jacker here. And if I'm driving down a street, especially the Arlington area, people on the sidewalk constantly look over their shoulder and watch me as I drive by. I should drive around yelling, "I'm not going to shoot you! Don't look so worried!", but I don't think that'll help.
It's disconcerting to be a minority in my city, but in one way it might help. It seems like most white people don't walk around town much; they try to speed through the city with their windows up and their doors locked. So, it's kind of unusual to see a cracker on the street (unless he's looking for crack). My theory is that if I'm walking around, non-white folks probably think I'm crazy or dangerous (because who else would do such a thing??). As a result, they won't want to bother me. It's like reverse psychology. Of course, I'm not going to press my luck and hang around downtown all night. Reverse psychology can go only so far before a "crime of opportunity" knocks.