Thursday, November 26, 2015

How Safe Are We?

     In the aftermath of police shootings of African Americans in several cities around the country, as well as terrorist attacks in Paris and elsewhere, some people are beginning to question just how safe we are these days.

     I don't know about you, but I feel safer than ever. I remember living in New York City as a young man in the 1970s. My wife was mugged in the vestibule of our brownstone. I also recall a time when I was walking down West 88th Street, approaching three young guys hanging out by a streetlamp. It was dark, about 7 p.m. As I walked past I noticed one of them was holding a handgun down by his side. It was too late for me to turn around, so I just kept going, not making eye contact, trying to remain calm. But by blood pressure shot up by about a hundred points.

     Then there was another time I ran down the steps into the subway. It was in the morning; I was late for work. I was stopped cold when I saw three cops surrounding a black man who was lying on the platform. One of the cops had his knee in his back. Another held a gun to the guy's head.

     I don't live in New York City anymore. I haven't for years. But I do go visit occasionally, and now the people I see on the street are young, well-dressed, and innocently if eagerly going about their business. The Lower East Side used to be a slum. Now it's upper middle class. Brooklyn is obviously and pleasantly multicultural, and feels as safe as my neighborhood in the outer suburbs.

     The fact is, violent crimes in New York City rose throughout the 1960s, '70s and '80s. They peaked at 212,000 violent crimes in 1990. They've been going down ever since. Last year the official report counted 75,000 violent crimes in New York.

     It's not just New York City. Nationally, violent crimes have followed a similar arc. They peaked in 1992 at almost 2 million. But by 2014 violent crimes in the U. S. had fallen to 1.2 million, even though there are plenty more people around today than there were in 1992.

     You're also safer in your car. The motor vehicle death rate peaked in 1969 at a little over 26 per hundred thousand population. Then seatbelts came in, and airbags, and stricter DUI enforcement. Today the motor vehicle death rate has been cut by more than half, to just over 10 per hundred thousand population.

     Then there's smoking and many other health hazards. The rates of lung cancer have leveled off and started to go down, because so many people have given up smoking. Now, if only we could do something about the rising obesity problem.

     Ultimately, the bottom line of life expectancy proves my point. And it's something to be thankful for, even if we don't always appreciate it.

     If you were a 60-year-old male in 1970, you could expect to live another 16 years. But if you're a 60-year-old man today, you can expect to be around for 21.5 more years. That's an extra 5.5 years. Females haven't gained quite as much, but they started out with better numbers. The life expectancy of a 60-year-old woman was 21 years. Now it's 24.5 years -- so women are still outpacing men by three years.

     And as far as terrorism goes, figures from CNN show that you are 400 times more likely to die from a fall than from a terrorist. So, of course, if you see something, you should say something. But be even more vigilant at home when you're negotiating the stairs or going to the bathroom.

18 comments:

DJan said...

Well said. I think that people are looking for something to be afraid of, in order to give a place for their free-floating anxiety to take root. The media doesn't help one bit, in my opinion. Stoking the fear of Americans in order to promote an agenda is shameful. Thank you for this post and Happy Thanksgiving! :-)

Jono said...

Things in general are definitely better these days, but as DJan says, you would never know it by the headlines.

Retired Syd said...

This is a great post. I watched 60 Minutes last week. There was a segment about mass shootings and how we are re-training the police to respond. Because it takes several minutes for police to respond, the officer being interviewed was wanting to convey advice to the public about how to act in an active-shooter situation. Andersen Cooper asked her something to the effect that isn't it kind of sensationalizing or causing unwarranted fear to spread advice like that? After all you are (insert some statistic I forgot) way more likely to be struck by lightning than be a victim of an active-shooter situation.

The next person that starts spouting about how much danger we are in, I want to ask--are you exercising at least 30 minutes a day, eating right, maintaining a healthy weight, not smoking, etc., etc., etc. Worrying about those things will do more to keep you alive than worrying about how to react in an active-shooter situation. Why doesn't 60 Minutes do a show about stuff that will ACTUALLY keep us safe like this. Because it's too boring, that's why. And no one would watch.

Hattie said...

I was in the NYC area in the late 60s early 70s. You had to be there, as they say,to believe how bad it was. And at the same time so exciting,full of creative people. Now it seems a bit dull,but it could just be my age that makes me think that.

schmidleysscribblins.com said...

We've all had our close calls, some us more than once. Life was harder and more dangerous in the old days, however. I like FDR's nothing to fear quote. Also JFK's "I will not live in fear." Bad things teach us to enjoy the present moment.

Kathy @ SMART Living 365.com said...

Hi Tom! Thank you for this post and for reminding everyone that real safety is more a thing of our mind than actual reality. My husband and I will be traveling to Egypt for Christmas (it is something that has been on my bucket list for as long as I remember) so we're going. It's almost funny seeing the expressions on people's faces when we tell them. It reminds me of when we went to Mexico City last year and when we told people that there are more homicides in Washington D.C. than in Mexico City people didn't believe us. The media sells LOTS of advertising by promoting fear and certain political parties use it to advance their cause. I do my very best to think for myself, exercise caution when necessary, and never live life with fear. ~Kathy

Snowbrush said...

There’s the physical cost and the emotional cost, and they’re not necessarily in sync. I fear a lot of things more than I fear a terrorist attack coming to my home town much less to hitting me personally. For example, I fear old age: I fear the death of my wife; I fear an economic collapse; I fear what the anti-government Republicans might do to the economy and to social services; etc. A terrorist attack is more about drama than substance since it’s unlikely that any such attack could kill more people than the number who die in car crashes each day.

Anonymous said...

Our only lives I NYC we visit and feel safer than in the pacific northwest town of Seattle where they have muggings all the time and lots of shootings and terrible things happening in broad daylight we don't visit anymore no thank you at all..Bellingham where our only went to the university and lived is different now than when she attended and lived in that lovely city, people are getting riled up about this and that, Bellingham hasn't the population of Seattle yet one would think crazies loom there, I refuse to believe that but we don't get up there very much, we live near Portland Oregon we are a border Washington town, in this sweet town someone killed a man who worked at this loan and gold place a wonderful human being, it is horrible, maybe someone came on the bus from Portland and did it and hopped on that same bus to go back to God-forsaken Oregon, it is terrible one just doesn't know anymore! We are vigilant we live in an area near a high school and many retired wonderful human beings, if something is amiss I call the cops asap and if I see something really different there is a retired police chief as my neighbor who walks his doggie all the time I get him immediately and he knows what to do, we watch out for all our friends and neighbors that is the way to really live..Our country is becoming a manty tiered area to live, many are hungry and homeless and unemployed and desperate and turns to means not honorable to get money and food, it is sad but true, but I won't be jumping on the bandwagon to be fearful of all human beings, what a crap way to live!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Stephen Hayes said...

Good advice. It's important to focus on positives rather than negatives. It's so easy being cynical, but that's a terrible way to try and find happiness. Take care.

Retired Syd said...

The New York Times must be reading your blog: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/27/opinion/false-alarms-about-a-national-crime-wave.html?action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=opinion-c-col-left-region&region=opinion-c-col-left-region&WT.nav=opinion-c-col-left-region

gigihawaii said...

Well, your post upset my husband. He wants to live into his 90s, not 80s.

Barbara Torris said...

We need more posts like this...really isn't it foolish to live in fear. What happens by accident or otherwise tomorrow or next week is not even relevant to our life today. I agree with JanD; stoking fear is indeed shameful especially if you have a political agenda.

Thank you again Tom.

Tom Sightings said...

Gigi, the average 65-year-old male has a 1 in 5 chance to get to age 90. But that's average. If he's reasonably healthy and takes care of himself, his chances get better, and if he's already over 65 his chances also improve ... and of course it helps if his parents also lived to a ripe old age. Beyond that, it's good luck! So . . . best of luck to him, and to you as well!

Anonymous said...

Yes, we have seen an amazing decline in crime rate in this country.. particularly among young people (where it has traditionally been very high). Even gun violence has made a huge decline, although, as your commenters say, the media with is political agenda makes us think otherwise. Our biggest threats now are external. Though we don't need to panic, we are not doing too well with those problems.

Snowbrush said...

"Even gun violence has made a huge decline, although, as your commenters say, the media with is political agenda makes us think otherwise."

Violence varies a lot by area, and I remember a time when there were no mass shootings.

Linda Myers said...

I agree on what safety looks like. It's about taking care of my body, mind, and spirit, and using all those things on my own home turf. Fear sells newspapers.

Anonymous said...

About living to your 90's my father in law drank almost daily, smoked since he was 13 and lived until 74 without a liver so to speak. My mother in law lived to nearly 87 she smoked since 13 too did not drink, had 9 kids and was sedentary since I married my husband in 1974 she outlived what most people would think of her life style..She did not have it easy at all, but she expected her sons to foot the bill for her instead they took her social security and ssdi from her son who was an adult to boot, she did not care for her 3 daughters at all, it was not a pleasant thing to visit her..I always tried to be kindly but we never took her to the bus to go on gambling junkets she was always going on, she had the money to live in a 2 bedroom home renting of course but instead let her criminal sons take her for the ride of her life..When she passed she went easily as they say..but of course we footed the bill oldest child and son no less..Life is a crap shoot, one has to respect life and not drink and smoke and raise hell but some people do get to live long lives it is just a matter of luck I guess!

Cindi said...

Rodney Dangerfield once said that thanks to innovation in deodorants, we now have complete protection under our arms.

I did leave another post, but I never saw it published.
Maybe a joke is more appropriate.