Wednesday, August 21, 2002

Places&Culture File:

The results are in. Walking out of your door is more dangerous in some of Chicago's outer suburbs than in Chicago itself. That conclusion comes from examining two sets of data. First, the study looked at traffic fatalities to assess the danger of leaving home for work or to run an errand or to pick up the kids from a soccer game. Then it looked at homicides by strangers, the murders that strike down people going about their routine business, the murders associated with dangerous neighborhoods. Such homicides account for 20 percent of the total, with the rest occurring between friends, lovers and relatives. ... The results are a testimony to the seeming inability of humans to accurately assess risk. It turns out leaving your door is twice as dangerous in Grundy County as it is in Chicago. (That's 3.3 traffic fatalities and stranger homicides per 10,000 people in Grundy versus 1.4 in Chicago.) ... A similar pattern was found over a four-year period in and around seven other cities: Baltimore, Dallas, Houston, Milwaukee, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.

Two Anne Arundel County police cruisers soon loomed in the rearview mirror. Yet despite his terror, Langston did not panic. Just a few more miles, he knew, and they would reach a place of refuge: a town that black people governed and allowed county police to enter only by invitation. A town where his family and other prominent African Americans owned elegant summer homes and held dinner parties at which piano sonatas were played and politics were discussed. A town beyond racism's reach. Called Highland Beach, it was Maryland's first majority-black municipality, and it is believed to be the nation's oldest African American resort.

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