The recent Patch poll on how safe we are in Salem generated some interesting and, in a few cases, predictable comments.
There are those who said that Salem is not as safe as it used to be.
Some compared us unfavorably with Lynn, our larger neighbor to the south.
Comparing us to Lynn, or any other neighboring community just does not work. Lynn has its issues as does every other community that we border. Any honest reading of police logs will bear that fact out. Drugs, assaults, and robberies are common across the North Shore. We are not special.
Picking on the police is too easy. With everything going on in society today, police work has become more difficult. Staffing issues brought on by budgetary constraints, increased oversight by the press and the public, and the emergence of a seemingly permanent public assistance mindset have turned police work into social work.
Lifebridge is also easy to pick on. They are, after all, where those on the edges of society can be found. What began as a small operation above the old Bowman's Bakery on Essex Street has slowly evolved into a large enterprise with access to state and federal funding. Every year new transient characters converge on Salem beginning in late March and early April. One in particular has been sleeping in doorways on Washington Street for the last five months. This transient issue is a direct result of our having Lifebridge in our midst. Those that deny this are not being honest with themselves.
Low-income housing is a legitimate target. While many who use such services are in legitimate need, many are in fact those that have learned to ride the system for every penny.
Attacking the parking plan, in this case is just silly. Like it or not, it hasn't and won't affect crime rates in downtown Salem.
There is an illusion out there about the days of old. We weren't really any more safe then than we are now. Bad people doing bad things have always been out there. There were thieves, muggers, rapists, and wife beaters back in the day just like there are now. I have been doing some research at the Salem Public Library for a project. The police logs from the 1960s are quite the read. Robberies of small businesses were very common as were downtown assaults. Seldom are domestics or OUIs mentioned. Does that mean they weren't a problem then, or does it mean they were reported less?
The reality is everything is reported in the newspapers these days. Nothing is sacred. The days of your Uncle calling his buddy at the paper to keep your name from being made public are over.
Another more disturbing reality is the culture we have built where it has become acceptable to live off of the working class. We as a society have allowed entire generations to avoid being responsible to themselves. Why work when you can collect assistance, SSDI, food stamps, and live in public housing?
Give some people something for nothing and they will surely want more. They will also figure out how to get it and will also develop a feeling of entitlement in other aspects of their lives.
"They" by the way, are not a particular "they." They come in all shapes, sizes, and ethnicities.
Salem is safe. It is also full of those who feel entitled to mooch for money at Walgreens, drink, sleep, and defecate on the river walk, and call for midnight EMT calls from inside the Greenlawn Cemetery forcing Salem Fire to cut the gate lock.
The problems we are experiencing reflect our society as a whole, not just Salem.
A small but solid first step would be for the city to finally address the panhandling issue through city ordinance.