March 20, 2003

What if?

by Chris Feeney

What if the famous COPS television program was based in Missouri? Apparently they would have plenty of material. According to a recent study by CNN the Show-Me State's two largest cities, St. Louis and Kansas City rank #1 and #3 respectively for the highest crime rates in the nation's metropolitan areas (over 300,000 population.)

The report is based on 2001 statistics compiled by the FBI regarding crimes reported in each city. The rating is a score of crimes per 1,000 citizens. St. Louis has the dubious honors of the #1 ranking with a score of more than 150 crimes per 1,000 citizens. Only Atlanta, GA kept Missouri from ranking one and two. The Peach State's largest city had a score of 122.4 to edge out Kansas City (112.5) for the runner up position.

Tampa, FL and Memphis, TN, rounded out the top five. I'm not one that believes in big conspiracy theories (well except when we talk about the JFK assassination but that's a whole other column for some other day) but it does seem as if someone is picking on my personal travel traits. I don't rack up a lot of frequent flyer miles but I have been to all five of these cities. As a matter of fact, I was in four of the five cities during 2001 when the crime stats were compiled. Maybe I should be on COPS - where I go crime seems to follow. Atlanta, the only one of the top five crime cities that I didn't go to during 2001 is on my travel plans for this fall for a wedding. If the history holds up maybe Atlanta will take over the #1 spot. Except that I will probably fly out of St. Louis for the trip so my personal effect on the numbers could be nullified.

To the best of my knowledge I have not witnessed any legal infractions during my time in the five worst crime cities. However, I have to admit that my one run in did occur in our pride and joy, St. Louis. I traveled to our state's largest city to pick up a new screen printing press for my wife's t-shirt business. I was traveling on from a meeting in Canton that evening and was planning to stay the night at a hotel before picking up the crates in the morning. I had a little time to kill so I was trying to locate the warehouse where I would be picking up the press the following morning. Needless to say it wasn't the nicest part of town and I was a bit lost. I pulled into the parking lot of an abandoned convenience store just off the ramp to Interstate 70. While I was looking at the map two gentlemen had approached the car. Fortunately for me I had the door of the truck locked. They offered me directions, asked for cigarettes and then begged for a little spare money before they finally started to get a little annoyed with me. Apparently the man's partner, who was conveniently standing in front of the truck (wander how he got that job?) decided I wasn't going to be had. It was either that or the revving of my engine that finally caused him to lose his nerve and I raced back onto the highway.

After the fact, once my blood pressure had returned to normal and I had changed my undershorts, I reviewed the situation in my head and tried to picture a better way to handle it. Outside of staying put in little old Memphis, the safest option was not to get lost in that part of town. Then again I'm not one who likes to get pushed around. Just because I'm a hick from rural upstate that doesn't know my way around the metropolis doesn't mean I should have to be afraid to pull over to the side of the road to regain my bearings. I just played dumb with them until they decided I wasn't as easy a mark as they thought. I just wish I would have thought of something better to say.

After they had begged for a lighter, cigarettes and money and still would not give up, I should have told them the only items I had in excess were the bullets for my handgun under the seat, and if they wanted some of them all they would have to do was to keep on trying to get into my vehicle to rob me.

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