Without doubt, the present high crime rate in Wilmington is having some adverse effects on the economic and social landscape of an otherwise beautiful city. The city fondly described as “a place to be someone” is fast becoming a city of nobody.
As early as 5 p.m., almost all the non-residents scamper for the safety of their suburban abodes. The residents can be seen peering through the screens of their bolted doors as early as 7 p.m. Night life is now strictly for those with lion hearts.
In the business district, all the grandiose offices and essential stores are not open to the public before 9 a.m. Worse, visitors who witness the hustle and bustle in peak hours will be surprised to find the place empty and desolate by 6 p.m.
Many non-residents who depart from the city during the evening rush hour seem to see the city residents in a pathetic aura. A friend once put his morbid feeling succinctly. While departing the city every evening, he used to wonder about the number of people who would wind up mugged or dead before dawn.
All this represents the multiplying effects of the city’s crime problem. But the most agonizing aspect of this situation is its ability to bring out the worst in the residents and visitors alike. Suddenly everyone begins to view the other person as a harbinger of evil.
This sad situation reminds me of a 2001 incident. In the middle of a wintry night, I had to walk from St. Francis Hospital on Clayton Street all the way to my home then on East 13th Street.
All alone, I was almost within the vicinity of the General Dollar store when I noticed the approach of a fierce-looking man ahead. In my opinion, his appearance and carriage were evil. Gripped with trepidation, I began a soft recitation of Psalm 23 as the thug moved closer.
I had commenced a second round of “The Lord is my shepherd” when, to my surprise, the guy suddenly dashed across to the other side of the road. He was almost knocked down by an oncoming car. Even in the dark, I could detect fear in his countenance. This strange scenario was soon repeated with a different man by Delaware Technical & Community College.
Although I finally made it home in one piece, I still could not fathom the basis of those men’s fears. However, I had to head straight for the bathroom to answer the call of nature. There, staring at me in the mirror, was the meanest man I had ever seen. Due to my choice of clothing, I looked like a terrifying thug on a mission to commit some felony. No wonder those other men were so scared.
The lessons I learned from that incident were a legion but one should suffice here. The crime in Wilmington is no excuse for anyone to get paranoid. And it’s definitely no reason for an individual to rush into judgment over the assumed flaws of others.
Rather, this is the moment for everyone to look within to imperfections crying for attention and amends. If we can take an objective look at ourselves, we will realize that the charity of our self-righteous critique of others should actually begin at home.This article was first published on August 7, 2005 in The News Journal of Delaware, USA. It was written by Femi Olawole in his capacity as a member of The News Journal Community Advisory Board.