Erik Hansen is a graduate student pursuing a Master of Public Policy and the “When I Was a Mustang…” columnist.
I caught a news story over the weekend about a young man who was “strong-arm robbed” — which is a technical term for mugged — on Foothill Boulevard Saturday morning. This occurrence coincides well with the fawning that has been going on ever since Oprah named San Luis Obispo as the happiest place in the Milky Way Galaxy last week.
What kind of persons — I won’t give them the honor of calling them men — would do such a thing? When I read the news story, it said the two persons who mugged the young man stole his shoes — WTF. What kind of person would want to steal another person’s shoes? I’m digressing though.
While pedophiles, rapists and murderers are at the bottom of the barrel, thieves, thugs and assholes don’t always fare all that much better in my book, and they are the ones who we are most likely to cross paths with in everyday life. Ideally, one should be able to just shrug off petty crimes as a consequence of living in an imperfect world. However, something still boils inside me when I hear about a crime like the one that occurred last Saturday, even when it has no connection to me or anyone I know personally.
While we could take this article in one direction and try to establish what Charles Bronson would do; in real life, going full Chuck Norris on an assailant should only be reserved for when all your chips have been played and there is no other course of action to take.
The other direction we could go in is to call and get an interview with the San Luis Obispo Police Department, where they will tell us the best thing to do is to simply hand over your possessions and get a description of the perpetrators. Then file a police report.
That’s nice. Thanks for the interview. You guys are really keeping the city safe by hiding out and giving me that seatbelt ticket over the summer, but you are nowhere to be found on Foothill Boulevard at 2 a.m. on a Saturday, where and when you know nothing good is going on.
How about we go neither direction, step back and take a pragmatic look at the situation, realizing that crime happens everywhere, even in the happiest place in the universe. Is this an increasing or decreasing occurrence? And I don’t care about comparisons with other cities, or how the nation is doing on a whole. Yes, according to the FBI’s preliminary 2010 statistics, crime is continuing to decrease across the nation, even in this shoddy economy. But how are we doing as a city?
Well, according to the FBI’s latest complete set of crime statistics for the city of San Luis Obispo, from 2001 to 2009, we have seen a decrease in the reporting of most major crimes; aggravated assault (down 45 percent), burglary (down 18 percent), larceny (down 7 percent) and auto theft (down 49 percent). This could be due in part to the city’s stringent enforcement of the California seatbelt law. However, there are two glaring categories that have seen an uptick in reporting during this same time period: rape (up 30 percent) and robbery (up 129 percent). While in no way discounting the horrendous crime of rape, in light of the latest occurrence just this last weekend, it is disappointing to see such a steep increase in robberies reported in our city.
I am sure some people with a more conservative bend in their thinking have their reasons why this type of crime is increasing, and how we could fight it, just as those with a more liberal point of view have their own reasons why this type of crime is increasing, and how to best handle it. Someone else can handle that discussion. The point of this column is to simply make you aware of the facts, as the numbers don’t lie or have an opinion of their own.
Without the intent of trying to scare anyone, as San Luis Obispo is still an extremely safe place to live and have fun in, use common sense and weigh these numbers before you place yourself in a vulnerable situation — one of the best ways to prevent yourself from becoming a victim is to take away the opportunity for a criminal to victimize you. Walk home in a group, don’t carry anything expensive with you if you don’t have to and be cognizant of your surroundings. All of these things are no brainers and were probably pounded into everyone their first week at Cal Poly during Week of Welcome.
While in a perfect world, everyone should be free to stumble home drunk, stoned or completely sober whenever they damn well please, we don’t live in a perfect world … even if we do live in the happiest place in the nation.