When France warned tourists about crime on Chicago's South and West Sides, it was only reflecting reality.
Some Chicagoans and commentators have worked themselves into high dudgeon over the French Foreign Ministry's warnings that tourists avoid visiting parts of the South Side and West Side. I quite understand that we don't want to take the insult lying down, or accept the racial stereotype implied in the warning.
Our local pride has been hurt, and many are responding by correctly pointing out the many places on the South and West Sides that are great and safe places to visit. Some are snidely pointing out that we can do without those Frenchies if that's the way they want to be. Still more are saying that Paris--despite it's glorified reputation--isn't all that great either.
And yet… and yet...
You can find more details about crime rates in Chicago neighborhoods by going to the Neighborhood Scout.
I once had my pocket picked on the Rome subway and I was furious that the local police don't do more about this problem that is so prevalent that the eternal city has an international bad reputation. I imagine that visitors here want to feel safe. And that they would be equally pissed if they happened into a neighborhood that they discovered, to their great regret, was unsafe.
Crime, indeed, is a problem in those neighborhoods. What it calls for is renewed determination to solve the endemic problems of single parenthood, absent fathers, fathers, gangs and violence. And for all of us, whether through out churches or civic organizations, to extend helping hands.
An interesting note: Marseilles is called "Chicago of the South" because the high number of drug-relatsed homicides.
Visit me and 36 other Chicago authors this Sunday, November 24, at the Chicago Book Expo, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the Uptown Neighborhood at St. Augustine College, 1345 W. Argyle in Chicago. There you'll be able to buy an autographed copy of my historical novel, "Madness: The War of 1812" at a bargain price.