AT On: Living In (Diamond In The) Rough Neighborhoods

AT On: Living In (Diamond In The) Rough Neighborhoods

Sarah Rae Smith
Feb 23, 2009

When my husband and I moved into our loft late last year, all we heard from friends and family was, "You're moving WHERE?!" They would then go on about the areas previous tendencies for crime, homeless, flooding, trains, planes and really big automobiles, but we didn't care... our minds were made up. Now when people come to visit they are still a little taken aback as they ask, "Are you sure it's safe to live down here?" Click through the jump to hear a few tips on living off the beaten path, or one that can be a bit scary when the sun goes down.

My husband and I live in the building of an old Burlap Factory backed by a train track, a small business class airport, a restaurant supply store and old warehouses and trucking companies. During the day the streets are packed with hard working blue collar workers who are all about. But come 5:00pm when the whistle blows, all that's left is those who live in the same area (if they aren't still at work), artists with studios, some stray railroad workers and those "wandering folk who have nothing better to do."
We personally love where we live. It's busy, it's empty, it's old and we aren't stuck with white walls (or any walls if we don't want them).
Like many major metro areas, this weeks forgotten industrial neighborhood, is next week's diamond in the rough "project neighborhood" and next years hot spot! Although we truly enjoy living here, there are some things we need to always keep in mind. Although we're shiny happy people, it doesn't mean that everyone around us is. Here's some rules of thumb that we have come to live by!

  • Don't wear your iPod: Headphones are a sure way to have noises and sounds around you muffled or blocked out. Even though your walk or run might be better to the beat of the latest tight-pants-wearing-floppy-hair boy band of the moment, it's best to look like you are 100% aware of your surroundings at all times. It's also a creates a flashing sign over your head that says, "Steal Me!"

  • Don't wear out your bluetooth or your phone: There are only so many hours in a day and being a big multi-tasker myself, I still have to draw the line when it comes to phone conversations while you are on the move. For the same reasons mentioned above, attentiveness to your surroundings and theft.

  • Walk with purpose: People who walk with purpose are less likely to attract those who don't have one. If you look like a feeble target, there's a good chance you will end up being one. That isn't to say that confidence can ward off some kind of bad juju, but it can keep you alert, active and involved with the world around you.

  • Park/Walk in lit areas: Sure one lightbulb won't deter someone who really wants to steal something or bust out your tail light, but it will deter those who aren't so set in their ways. Random delinquents walking through the area will be more likely to pop a window out of boredom in a dark alley instead of a lit one.

  • Know your neighbors and business owners: In a 10 block radius, there are 3 buildings of artists and working studios, two buildings with residential tenants and the rest are all business owners. Although we've taken great strides to get to know all the residential tenants, the business owners are the ones who are around more often than not. Even if it's not a business you would normally associate yourself with, say hi to people who are taking out the trash, accepting deliveries and unloading trucks. Knowing that someone in the area stays late on certain nights can be a bonus if you need somewhere to go in an emergency.

  • Know more than one way home: Having had parents who were bound and determined to teach their children excellent navigational skills, I've never really had a problem finding my way home. It wasn't until I met my husband who didn't take a different way home or stray far from his daily driving/walking/riding routine. Not only does this keep you abreast of the different things that happen day in and day out, but it means you will never be lost where you live. In an area that's full of one way streets or random bridges, it can be a great thing to know.

  • Get a dog: We have two. One who isn't so intimidating, but the other who although is as sweet as sweet can be, doesn't always look super friendly. We walk them 4-5 times a day, most often for a half hour at a stretch. It's a great way to wave at neighbors, keep an eye on things and truly interact with our area. Plus, people aren't as prone to stop you if you have poochies in tow. The only catch is you need to have control of your animals, otherwise you open yourself back up to being a target who doesn't have hands to defend themselves if need be.

  • Don't leave things in your car: It sounds simple, but people don't have much reason to break into a car that doesn't have anything in it. In the same breath, bikes are always a target, so if you have the ability to store them in your place, please do. Make sure if you have a GPS device that you remove the plastic suction cup that ID's your vehicle as "one that could contain something expensive." Make sure to program "home" in your GPS device to a location close to where you live, but not with your exact address. That way if someone breaks into your car while you are out and about town, they can't track you back home.

  • Look people in the eye: Thieves and those up to no good, don't want to be identified. So make sure to say hi to those you come across no matter what they look like. You might be the only one in your area who acts as a neighborhood watch, but knowing that there are people like you out there does more good than you will think.

    Those are the standard rules we follow as we go throughout our day. Our neighborhood isn't a scary one, but is one that you should have common sense about you.

    What's the scariest place you've ever lived?
    What tips would you add to the list?
    Leave us a comment below and let us know!

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