Media companies like to put out lists – best and worst lists. My home city, Canton, OH, has a way of getting put on the “worst” lists quite often, for some reason. When it happens, many of my friends who are part of efforts to revitalize Canton get pretty worked up.
They, and I, are typically quick to defend our city. The methodologies and agendas behind these lists are always suspect, and they rarely take into account that there are many positive opportunities in their target cities that could change things on a dime.
One of these lists came out this week from a previously little known (to the general public) real estate blog. The story claimed that Canton was America’s second most dangerous small city. They came to this conclusion based on crime statistics compared with similarly sized cities.
Normally, I would be jumping out of my skin to defend Canton. But last week, I heard a series of gun shots in my neighborhood. Yesterday, I saw a news report about a drive-by shooting just feet away from where I have spent hours trapping a feral cat colony for TNR. I hear reports DAILY of violent crimes occurring in Canton’s neighborhoods that never get resolved.
Canton DOES have a crime problem. I don’t know how it truthfully ranks with other cities, and putting it on a “worst list” certainly does nothing to help the problem. But ignoring the realities does not do anything to help it either.
I want to assure people that, in most respects, Canton is a safe city. The downtown Canton Arts District, in which I have participated in redevelopment efforts, is one of the safest and most enjoyable downtowns you will find in America. Canton has world class parks and one of the most notable public festivals in America around the annual Football Hall of Fame inductions.
Yet there are also good and decent neighborhoods that have been challenged in recent years by crime and blight. Home foreclosure has hit us hard, and slumlords have put previously well-cared-for properties into careless hands. Booming stereos cruise the streets at all hours, ensuring that NO ONE can live with any sense of peace in their own home.
These neighborhoods are not ghettos, but they are fast becoming that. The problem is, the majority of people living in these areas are good, law abiding citizens. Our state government’s efforts to make “smaller government” has led to significant funding decreases to cities, which means that cities like Canton cannot afford sufficient law enforcement. A lack of vision at all levels of government have left citizens to fend for themselves.
I get it. We do not want to draw attention to the problems, lest it will turn people away from investing in community improvement. I do not want anyone thinking Canton is a bad place to be. I have to be honest, though. We cannot change Canton if we do not do something about it’s crime problem.
If you care about Canton, please, keep talking up the positives. Keep doing what you can to make things better. But please, do not shy away from the fact that we need to DEMAND better for Canton. Tell our local, state, and federal leaders that we need resources and vision to fix what is wrong. Tell them that they need to do more, so that what is good gets us put on the “BEST” lists in the future.
Life is an Adventure!