A place called home: Living in a top-ranked dangerous city

By Erica Abbott
March 20, 2015

A street in Camden, N.J.
A street in Camden, N.J. (Creative Commons)

Everyone has a place that they call home. But what if your home was listed as the most dangerous city in America?

Recently, NeighborhoodScout released the list of 100 most dangerous cities for 2015 and the top two ranked cities are both within 20 miles of Cabrini. Topping the list, Camden ranked as number one and Chester at number two.

“We’ve always been top five most dangerous cities in America. It puts our city down, like that’s not the only thing going on there,” Vinny Walls, senior liberal studies major, said. “But sometimes it upsets me. I know it’s on the rise; it’s getting better, even though we’re number one right now. I see it as getting better from when I was younger.”

Walls is from Camden, N.J., and wants to do as much as he can to try to help. He did a summer camp for kids and when he was little, his father worked with kids playing basketball.

“Children don’t grow up having bad mindsets; it’s the environment that they grow up around. [With] younger generations, you just gotta put in that there’s more to Camden than just eight miles in the city. I just try to stay as positive as I can and try to be a role model,” Walls said. “If you go in Camden, you’ll find a lot of people that are prideful about the city. I love Camden [and] I’m going to do as much as I can to try to help.”

Some of the worst experiences he has seen in Camden, however, are walking around the city and seeing how drained people look.

“So many people just look like they’re drained, like Camden is sucking the life out of them. But some people are so used to it that they love being there and they’re used to the environment.”

According to Walls, people love seeing the positive things happening in Camden but those types of stories are rarely published. “All everybody sees is outside looking in and nobody is going in to see what’s really going on.”

Last year, Camden was ranked as number three, while in 2013 it ranked as number two. Its lowest rank recently listed on the website was in 2012 when it came in as number five.

This year’s second-ranked most dangerous city has seen much more dramatic jumps in their ranking. In 2012, Chester was ranked as number two, but in 2013 it fell to number 19. In 2014, however, it jumped back up in the top 10 to number eight.

NeighborhoodScout ranks the 100 cities “based on the number of violent crimes per 1,000 residents.” According to their website, violent crimes include murder, forcible rape, armed robbery and aggravated assault.

Though major cities such as Philadelphia may have more crime, it also has more people, making the chances of falling victim to crime less likely. In fact, Philadelphia came in at number 54 on the list this year. NeighborhoodScout reported 17,088 violent crimes in Philadelphia but 1,895 in Camden. Population size is the key factor in determining where each city falls on the list.

When it comes to second-ranked Chester, Saleem Brown, associate director of first-year experience, also hopes to go back and help people. Brown, who grew up in Chester, has seen both the ups and downs of the city.

“My worst experiences are losing friends and family due to the violence in Chester. I never want to see anybody die of gunshots…but the reality of it is that those things happen and people’s lives are taken a lot earlier than they’re supposed to be,” Brown said.

One thing that Brown loves and sees as a positive about Chester, though, is the sense of community, how they all stand together and have each other’s backs. Also an assistant coach for men’s basketball, he sees basketball as having a positive impact.

“Basketball was a way to keep you out of trouble. You go there and you’ll see people playing basketball from 11 a.m. or noon to 2 a.m. in the morning. It just kept you out of trouble [and] gave you something to do but yet the skills develop to where it helped me go to Cardinal O’Hara, helped me get to Cabrini. I see it as a motivator to get out.”

Brown also acknowledges that if it weren’t for the people in his life, he wouldn’t be where he is today. He wants to help the people who are living and growing up in his hometown.

“I was fortunate enough because I had someone like my grandpop who, when he came home everyday, he carried a briefcase and wore a tie and a suit jacket. A lot of kids didn’t get to see that but I did. That motivated me to want to be like him,” Brown said.

“On the other side, I’ve seen the drug dealers and these things so if you don’t have this one positive image, then you’re going to follow the other image that’s probably not so good. And not to say that those people who are doing it are bad people, but it’s just the only choice that they sometimes have to maybe feed their family or something.”

Temple University student Joyce Hackett knows how it feels to have her city ranked on the list as well. Born and raised in Chester, Pa., she does not feel surprised by the ranking, given the abundance of crime that the city experiences day in and day out.

While it was still relatively safe to walk around certain areas when she was a child, she now feels uneasy just walking around outside for a short amount of time. She said that she is disgusted and saddened by it.

“It seems like there will be no escape from the robberies, drugs, shootings, fighting, gang violence, and murders. It is so sad to see this city in such shambles,” Hackett said. “There are many great people who live in Chester who are forced to live in fear. I hear about the violence on a constant basis.”

Many people have been and are affected by the crime that plagues the city, including her family and herself. As Hackett said, crime touches everyone in the city. There is no one that is not affected by what is constantly surrounding them.

“Every shooting, every murder, every crime affects everyone. It is destroying the city from the inside out at an alarming rate,” Hackett said. “It is so sad. There is so much potential in Chester and I just hate seeing what is happening.”

Though these cities may be ranked as dangerous, they are still places that people call home.

“I still love the city no matter if we’re number one or number 1,000—that’s my place of birth, that’s where I’m from and I’ll always represent it the right way,” Brown said.

Maps of Camden and Chester in relation to Cabrini:

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Erica Abbott

Hi my name is Erica Abbott and I am the News Editor for the Loquitur this year. I am currently a junior Communication major, Spanish minor. I am also a social buzz editorial intern with Business 2 Community. I am very interested in the arts, social media, photography and writing.

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