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Foss: Violent crime a fact of life for too many people

Foss: Violent crime a fact of life for too many people

Schenectady County had state's highest per capita rate in 2016
Foss: Violent crime a fact of life for too many people
A memorial for murder victim Medina Knowles in front of 524 Schenectady St. in September 2016.
Photographer: PETER R. BARBER

I don't feel unsafe when I walk around Schenectady. 

Or Albany, for that matter. 

This might seem strange, given the revelations contained in a new report from the state Division of Criminal Justice Services. 

According to this report, Schenectady County had the state's highest per capita crime rate in 2016. Albany County had the fifth-highest. 

I don't dispute the DCJS report, but its findings still surprise me, simply because I feel safe in both communities. I go for walks in the evenings. I hang out in city parks. I'm comfortable leaving my home at any hour, and returning whenever I please. 

And yet.

I'm well aware that crime is a common occurrence in many Capital Region communities. 

I've interviewed people whose loved ones were murdered, and people who have survived assaults and other violent incidents. I've met people who have committed violent crimes and been imprisoned for them. I've visited crime scenes and the small streetside memorials people create for murder victims. There are places I won't walk late at night, at least by myself. 

Earlier this summer my husband and I were walking near our home when we came upon one of these memorials. 

"Did someone die?" my husband asked. 

"A homeless man was stabbed to death last week," I replied. 

In a community where crime is less common, less a part of everyday life, a murder near your home might qualify as an extraordinary event. 

But I didn't see it that way. 

I saw it as sad, but not especially unusual. There have been other homicides on that street, and there will probably be more. 

If I don't sound particularly fearful, it might be because most violent crime is not random, which means it's fairly unlikely that a stranger is going to assault me when I'm out for a walk or at the park. Most victims of violent crime know their attackers, according to a 2012 Bureau of Justice Statistics report.

Which doesn't mean we shouldn't be concerned about the high crime rates in Schenectady County, Albany County and some other Capital Region communities. 

The fact that so many of our neighbors are crime victims, and will likely become crime victims in the future, should trouble us, even if violent crime isn't something we've experienced in our lives, or are likely to experience. 

I might feel safe in my home and my neighborhood, but this isn't true for everyone, and high crime rates are a big part of the reason why. 

Crime might be on the decline overall, but the DCJS report suggests that it is still way too high in much of the Capital Region. 

Until this changes, violent crime will continue to be a fact of life for too many people, and our communities will suffer as a result. Violent crime should be rare. Right now, it's the opposite of that. 

Reach Gazette columnist Sara Foss at [email protected]. Opinions expressed here are her own and not necessarily the newspaper's.

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