It was unseasonably warm when I got here six weeks ago. The balminess likely contributed to my initial impression that this was a more peaceful city. The traffic certainly wasn’t as bad as in Seattle —unless I got on one of the myriad and confusing highways that require multiple exchanges between them in order to get to your destination, and even those are heavy during rush hour and not so much at other times.
That first week, when I drove down sunny, treelined streets in South Minneapolis, with kids playing in yards and Halloween decorations proliferating outside well-tended homes, I kept thinking about The Truman Show, so I guess I had an inkling even then that all was not as it seemed. I knew that my neighborhood had its challenges but, while I walked by closed stores and passed few others on the street, I didn’t feel that it was threatening.
It took me switching my NextDoor membership from Seattle to my neighborhood here in Minneapolis for a different reality to start intruding itself into my unwilling consciousness. This is just a small sampling of what has come in there and on the news:
- Apartment broken into while sleeping, car stolen from parking garage
- 6 Armed Carjackings Reported Within 5 Hours In South Mpls
- Attempted carjacking by the Basilica of St. Mary
- Armed carjacking last evening
- 70-year-old woman carjacked on Excelsior — car and dog stolen
- Carjackings at all–time high in Minneapolis
I know things are happening all over the country. But starting in a new city when people who have lived here for years are increasingly jumpy about their safety is challenging. It takes time to learn to read the signs in a new place. One of the apartments I considered renting when I came on my exploratory visit in September is in the building in which the sleeping woman’s car was stolen from the garage. To my uneducated eye, the neighborhood it’s in, though close to where I am now, seemed safer. “Oh no,” said my daughter-in-law. “I wouldn’t feel safe with you there.” Boy, was she right and there is no way I could have made that judgment on my own.
But I can’t take her with me whenever I go out (the county police department made a video giving advice on how to prevent and deal with carjackings; among the not so helpful tips for a single person is not to drive alone), so I’m doing my best to adapt. I’m no longer carrying a handbag and ordered a cute little belt bag from lululemon that fits easily under my coat. My car keys are now kept in my coat pocket, where they can easily be handed over should the situation require. My house keys are in a different pocket. I don’t know what I’ll do when spring and summer come and I won’t be wearing a coat but I have time to figure that one out. And maybe, by then, the city will have figured out how to handle what’s going on here. I hope so.
The good news is that the 70-year-old woman got her dog back. Her car, on the other hand, was totaled.