About twenty years ago, a couple were visiting NYC from another country. They went to lunch and they left their baby in the stroller outside the restaurant. I’m pretty sure the couple was publicly flogged. Americans were up in arms about this. The couple didn’t understand why the American authorities and the court of public opinion were browbeating them about child protection laws.

A few months ago, I talked about telling my 19 year old daughter that I thought it was ridiculous for her to take a train that would arrive in the middle of the night. The overwhelming majority of my American readers were right there with me. They agreed with me that her decision was not very mature. My non American readers however, had a much different outlook- they all thought that she as an adult and therefore I had no say in the matter.

So…

Are Americans in general over protective of their children?

Do Americans baby their children more?

Or is America really more crime ridden than other places?

I really can’t answer the first two questions accurately- I know that I was involved in my daughter’s life. I also know that my daughter, as an urban child, was exposed to much more than most. Many of you have heard the stories of seeing the homeless guy shower in the sprinkler at the park, and watching drug take downs, and living around the block from the methadone clinic. People shouting at you and going to the bathroom on the corner. Taking the subway to high school and becoming a grizzled commuter at the age of fourteen…

But anyway…

Is there a lot of crime here? Yes. Is it more than other places? I have no idea.

I do know that when I’m walking I am really paying attention to my surroundings. I hold my purse tight wherever I am. I was on the bus and the subway this week and I felt threatened both times. What I assume to be a homeless person, who to my limited knowledge was either mentally unstable or high or both, was literally in my face yelling at me. And this was a crowded subway in the middle of the afternoon. Do you think the people get less crazy/high as the day goes on? Or are there just less other people on the train with you?

I know that someone tried to steal my neighbors motorcycle, right outside our building, in the middle of the night, right under the lights…

I know that buildings get graffitied in the middle of the night…

While crime can happen at any time of the day, doesn’t a lot of it happen at night?

At Penn Station- there is no place to sit unless you are a ticketed passenger- you must show your ticket to enter the seating area. This is because SO MANY PEOPLE just hang out at the station. While some truly have no place to go, many are drug dealers and petty criminals. Do you know how many people have been pushed onto subway tracks this year?

I could tell you that I refuse to have the app on my phone that constantly alerts you to crime in the street, because my daughter has it and it’s constantly beeping.

When I told you about how I just missed getting hit my breaking glass at Bed Bath, someone asked me if they caught the person who did it. I laughed because a brick being thrown into a window of a store might be big news somewhere, but not here. No one is reporting that story because it happens all the time and it’s just a day in the life.

Yes, I choose to live here and I love it. But it doesn’t mean that I am naïve to the things going on around me. Like I do with everything, I take precautions, I think about what’s in front of me, and I live my life. I do not hide or run away. But I make smart choices as to when and where and how I do things. I try to avoid situations that I know could be dangerous. I don’t where “nice’ jewelry if I’m getting on mass transit. I wear shoes I can run in if necessary. For the record, I’m more worried about crime than COVID. But I don’t let either run my life.

So is there “more” crime here? I don’t know. Am I careful and protective about my person when I am out and about? You bet. Do I ascertain the risk of certain things? 100%. Is there any guarantee of safety? I guarantee you not- safety is an illusion that we cling to to get us through the day. All we can do is take precautions and hope.

68 thoughts on “Is It Just Different Here

    1. I’m always on alert. It doesn’t stop me from doing things, but I always consider what could happen. I tell my family not to walk home down a certain street at night because it’s too deserted

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Crime is so pervasive now I think. I love in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada, population 570,000. Suddenly in the last few months we have had shootings ???? – gun crimes were unusual, knife attacks, beatings, outright racism induced crime – all outside the typical polite nice Canadian persona. Of course big cities like Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver are more like the rest of the world.

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  2. Touche. As a parent, you will always worry about your children regardless of their age. Personal safety starts with yourself. Petty criminals/mentally ill/drug addicts are looking for opportunities. If you make yourself an opportunity, crime will find you. Regardless of where you live, it is always in your best interest to be aware of your surroundings. When I’m on a plane I know how many rows in front and behind me to the exit. When I’m in a store, a movie theater etc, I know where the exits are. If I’m walking down the street, I know who is behind me. I was in a workplace shooting. I made a couple of bad decisions (no harm, no foul) but never again. To put it simply, I expect the worse out of people and when they prove me wrong – its a good day.

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    1. I’m so sorry to here you were at a workplace shooting. That’s horrible. But yeah…I expect the worst of people. I don’t think I’ve had a day where my hackles weren’t up at some point

      Liked by 1 person

  3. While I don’t live in a crime-free zone (and have been victimized by burglars even at my rural home), it is nowhere near like where you live. Even so, I would have some trepidation about roaming around town after midnight. While my impression is that there is less crime in parts of Europe, particularly those places that seem to have resolved the homelessness and drug issues, those countries are not really inherently safer. Maybe they really just are less worried about crimes against children there.

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  4. I know I was way more protective of my children than my parents were of me. One reason was a kidnapping of a young boy from his front yard. That was about 20 minutes from us. And his body was found a few weeks later. It made the parents in our area very protective of our children. We had plenty of crime in Palm Springs, too.

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    1. It’s funny, because my mother was the most over protective parent ever. My mother always says I gave my daughter way too much freedom. So I figure I’m on a better path. I know how her rabid over protection affected me

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Two such incidents in western Toronto happened near my neighborhood after I became a parent and caused me to launch into a period of obsessive overprotection. But I found myself return to a more rational approach eventually…

      It’s a tough call what’s right or best.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. 1. I grew up European and wandered the city streets as a Kindergartener, took the train (not subway) to a town 2 stops over by myself at age 8 for extra help math lessons, and was rarely supervised while in or out of the house.

    (I’m GenX, childhood in the 70s in Europe, teen in North America in the 80s).

    2. Yes, North Americans are generally more overprotective/helicopter-ish

    But

    BUT

    3. It’s not the same world anymore.

    Also North American danger appears more dangerous to me, but I have no concrete examples as to why I say this. It’s a feeling based on my own life experience in both Europe and Canada

    I am also not parenting my own kids the way I was parented. I am NOT a North American parent 100% of the time. I do some European stuff. For instance, my kids took public transportation to school as of grade 4. I trained them, and gave them a cell phone.

    So…my answer is:

    It depends on individual circumstances and it’s complicated.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. My daughter started walking to school in 4th grade too…she has a cell phone as well. But I told her what corner she was supposed to cross because there was one corner that was just horrific for traffic.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. I have to agree with you about how different it was 40+ years ago. I grew up in a Northeastern city in Pennsylvania. As a kid in the 70’s and a teen in the 80’s I remember walking multiple blocks all over town at all hours of the day and feeling safe. By the 90’s things changed. I wierdly felt safer in Philadelphia when I was in Art School than I did in my hometown. My wife and I live in my hometown but right on the border of a neighboring town, we almost never walk in center city but the vibe today feels very unsafe.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I admit NYC in the 70s/80s was far worse than recent times. However, never fear…our crime rates are in the rise again…but you don’t want to hear me get into that

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  6. Crime used to be something that happened primarily at night. Now it’s done brazenly out in the open. Between that and issues with human trafficking, child abduction, etc., I just don’t think you can be too overprotective when it comes to your children…adult or not. If God forbid something were to happen, I would rather not live with the regret of at least expressing concern regarding a situation…I’d rather be overly concerned. While my city probably doesn’t compare to New York, here in Milwaukee crime has risen drastically. In general it seems our world has gotten less safe.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I feel like a Country Mouse now. This needs its own answer, in a full post on my blog.

    Yes, we’re overprotective of our children if the comparison is your stroller and midnight train-ride stories. HOWEVER, the US of A is freaking HUGE and some areas are more dangerous than others.

    … which leads to answering your other point: yes, you definitely have more crime than elsewhere. Yours is a literal roach motel, where you can only address the few insects that boldly eat the butter right under your nose.
    Here in Country-Mouse Land, we’re able to spray -only facing the rare infestation.

    Liked by 3 people

  8. I think most places, certainly most urban places with their concentration of people, have areas and times to avoid. You gave good examples of how you personally take precautions and have increased awareness. They all seem to make sense. I didn’t understand on my first trip to Argentina, and probably my first subway ride, why most of the passengers were focused intently on their cell phones as they rode. After my husband and I as newbie tourists had our cell phone stolen, the light bulb went on! Yes, I was very naive, and I still have problems getting my mind around how people can be intentionally evil to other people.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I definitely saw some shady things when I was taking my son to SF every day. I didn’t feel really unsafe because I was in a car but at some of the stop lights the homeless folks would walk down the row of cars waiting for the light to change with signs asking for money. I made sure my doors were locked. I don’t notice that much around our suburb town but that’s not to say it’s not out there and any time I am alone, I pay attention to what/who’s around me. It just makes sense. I think we are much more protective of our kids than our parents were. I was able to stay out in front or go up and down the neighborhood to friend’s houses but I wouldn’t let my own kids go across the street without me watching them. I don’t know about other countries.

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  10. I believe urban/suburban/rural settings do see widely varied patterns of violence and crime and that’s based on statistics surrounding population size, economy, opportunity…etc. Those trends directly influence the protective nature of parents. Clearly, cultural has it’s place as well in this discussion, as does general familial influence based on historical precedence. Analysis in this area is what keeps many sociologists employed!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. But it comes down to, if you don’t see this daily, you might not know how it is. I tend to paint a rosy picture of my city because I love it. But like anythung you truly love, you have to be able to see it’s faults as well

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  11. I was born and raised in Chicago, so I understand everything you’re saying. It’s culturally different, and it lends itself to being more aware/cautious. I still have some of those tendencies now, and my youngest daughter always says, “You can tell where you were raised.”

    With that said, when we went to Japan, I was extremely surprised and excited to see how liberated their children are. One of my favorite photos is of a group of kindergartners (maybe) walking to school in Kyoto…unsupervised. I do think there is less crime and violence in a country like Japan. In general, it would be shameful to even commit such an act, so again, it is culturally different.

    As you know, I live in Jacksonville, Florida. By definition, this is an urban city, but nothing like NYC or Chicago, for example. I’ve been berated for leaving my purse in the grocery cart thingee. I leave my car doors and house unlocked. Sometimes, I even leave the car running while I run in the store, depending on what side of town I’m on. Part of this is because I don’t fear anything happening, and another is because I try my best not to live in fear, but at the same time, I’m not crazy. I’d never do this if I was back home.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. OMG, the way you nonchalantly speak about robberies, crime apps, homelessness and bricks coming through windows .. I don’t know where the heck you live, but if you you are accustomed to that behavior and you think everyone lives with such events. The answer to your question to all your questions is yes. Over protected out of necessity, and you have far more crime than I’ve ever lived with..

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t know if people understand my perspective when I say something is unsafe. I might show all the wonderful things I experience, but I’m not naive to the shortcomings. As I took a lot of heat for people saying I shouldn’t tell my daughter what to do, I needed to express why I think certain situations are better to be avoided

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  13. Gen X here. Been all over Europe and it’s different there, but also, it was a different time. Back in our day (LOL) crime was less I think and we were safer than now. I’m probably considered overprotective, but now that kids are older, I’ve loosened up. Still want to know that you’ve gotten to your destination if you’re going overnight, but that’s it. Ok, well, still want to know what time you’re around for dinner as well, but that’s a scheduling issue. I’m a safety first kind of girl so the kid call me the lock queen (as in house/car doors locked). I don’t care. I control what I can when I can. City life was never my cup of tea as I prefer the suburbs. But there is something magical about the city never sleeps life too. I just don’t think I’m cut out for it.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I had almost posted on my Sunday facts about how people in Denmark leave babies in strollers parked outside stores. I still plan too and I imagine the reaction I will get. It truly is a culture thing.
    And I agree that safety isn’t guaranteed anywhere. We here all the time on 48 hrs and Dateline, it was a small friendly town, nothing ever happened. People left doors unlocked, etc.
    Always good to take precautions and I hope you keep staying safe! Yes, fear shouldn’t rule our lives, but common sense should.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. This is true. While I didn’t grow up in NYC, I did live most of my life in LA, and when you are not from a big city, you don’t really understand the “insensitivity” to things that happen. I once told a friend that where I grew up it was normal to have helicopters looking for people in the middle of the night. We even had a name for the helicopters that is escaping me at the moment. Anyway, the point is, if you’ve not lived it, experienced it, it’s not something you can really get. That’s all…

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  16. Is it more European to bring children to take on full rights & responsibilities when they reach the age of majority? I don’t know – possibly, maybe even probably. I do know that if I go into a restaurant where there are families with young children, the children who are behaving well and not causing a disruption are those from mainland Europe, in marked contrast to those who are are English (or American). That doesn’t mean that they chuck their children out into the cold dark night when they reach the age of majority, but that they teach them how to behave like an adult before they get there.

    One thought to consider – because you continue to live in a dangerous city and demonstrate your acceptance of having to live a life on alert, could this make your daughter think it is normal for her to do likewise and also take risks, if even greater than ones you choose to take? We don’t just teach them by telling them stuff, we also model behaviours from which our children learn. Not judging you for this decision by the way (it’s what I’d do too), but it may help to understand why she acted as she did.

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    1. I was most disappointed in her not realizing this was a not acceptable risk. Getting out of bed is a risk (my mother in law fell and broke her wrist I think) but some things are way more risky then others. Don’t make yourself a victim. For the record, I don’t think anyone should leave a 14 month old baby in a stroller outside a restaurant. I wouldn’t leave my dog outside either.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I couldn’t agree more. I remember being horrified by the British practice of leaving prams with babies in them outside – either outside shops or on the pavement in front of a house. Weird!

        As to your daughter, I understand your disappointment. A tweak in the training will hopefully have sorted that out. Although I never got my daughter to stop cycling around the horrifying roundabout in central London, so… Fortunately now she has children of her own, she’s stopped doing it.

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      2. Letting them make decisions when we agree with them is easy. Allowing them to make their own decisions when we disagree with them or find them stupid – that’s the real test.

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      3. Yeah. If I didn’t say something and something happened to her I’d never forgive myself. I can 100% live with that decision

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  17. Crime can happen anywhere. Violent crime can also happen anywhere. We’re a nation of anger and rage now. What might not have escalated into violence a decade ago has morphed into scenarios where anything can happen. Violence and crime in certain cities is increasing due to a shift in policies. While it’s smart to be aware of surroundings all the time now, it’s smarter to try not to put yourself in vulnerable situations.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. There comes a time when you must let them take risks and when you must trust them to make their own decisions. It depends whether you are trying to bring up a fully developed person or a robot. Your daughter, taking risks, will learn to be vigilant. If she just does what you tell her, she won’t. In case you hadn’t noticed, I belong to the throw them out of the nest and see if they fly school of parenting.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s the trouble with being a parent. I’d never have forgiven myself if something had happened to either of mine, but sometimes you have to let them learn from their mistakes, which drive lessons home far more than anything we tell them. We also have to tell the difference between crime and the fear of crime – in the UK my kids were no more likely to be the victim of crime than I was when I was their age, but there is so much reporting now there is a lot more fear about. It is very tricky.

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  19. Oh wow. Sounds dangerous. I don’t believe there are countries with more crime than others, but there are neighborhoods with more crime than others. My neighborhood doesn’t have much crime but there are motorcycles stolen regularly in the area, and attempted house burglaries. However, each building here has a doorman and security cameras. Other areas in my city aren’t that fortunate, this more crime. I still am careful when I walk in the street and im too scared to take a cab because there are many unlicensed cabs here and I hear of my abductions of women and murders that occur because some women go into an unlicensed car that is pretending to be a cab.

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