New York once had a terrible reputation as an unsafe, decaying, crime-ridden city.
Luckily, I came of age as New York experienced a major drop in crime. I was able to enjoy NYC without fear in ways some people even a few years older than me couldn’t.
New York definitely isn’t what it used to be. When my mother was my age — in her 20s — she had a gun pulled on her in Times Square while she was in line to see a movie. These days, I mostly worry about the herds of slow-moving tourists and people in rip-off Elmo costumes. My mom didn’t go to Times Square because it wasn’t safe. I don’t go there because it’s annoying.
We’ve come a long way, but New York is still New York. Growing up in Staten Island, I met people who talked about living in places where they didn’t lock their doors — or windows. I always thought that was weird. Why wouldn’t they lock the doors? Maybe they lived in a town or neighborhood where they only needed one lock on the door — instead of the four often required during NYC’s bad old days.
Despite an overall 85 percent drop in burglaries since 1990, New York City is not — and probably will never be — a place where dwellers should leave their apartments or homes without bolting the door. Anyone who has lived here for a short time knows that. Which is why I’m so surprised at the rash of burglaries in The Village, and in Queens (Astoria, Forest Hills and Rego Park). Burglars have broken in through unlocked doors or unlatched fire-escape windows. In Astoria, for instance, the NYPD reported 41 burglaries through unlocked windows since late last year.
This should go without saying: If you’re leaving your home, lock your door; if you’re home, keep your door locked. It doesn’t matter what neighborhood you live in, how well you know your neighbors, or what time of day it is. This isn’t meant to scare anyone — if you’re scared, maybe NYC isn’t for you — but don’t get comfortable in the fact that our city is safer today than 20 years ago. Locking the doors is common sense.
No amount of good policing can deter criminals taking advantage of easy targets. So don’t become one. This isn’t victim blaming; it’s Street Smarts 101.
Rachel Figueroa-Levin tweets as @Jewyorican and @ElBloombito.