Crime and the City
While urban life is vibrant and exciting, it is plagued with several challenges. Crime is an issue that bedevils any urban location. Urban locations attract criminal activities because they are concentrated with people with resources, unlike rural areas where people are scattered, and resources are scarce or far apart. I have been raised in an urban city in Kuwait. Kuwait is a relatively small country full of foreigners. It is also relatively safe in terms of crime levels. However, I went to the United States for my undergraduate studies at the University of Arizona, and I experienced a culture shock. I found that the American society is very vibrant and exciting. I also noticed that the country has a multicultural society. Although I am currently living in Tucson, Arizona, I have had the opportunity to live briefly in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles. Moving around in these cities has brought me face-to-face with crime, which is a relatively new experience to me and has changed my perspectives about life and my worldview. In the following discussion, I will describe three events I witnessed, which have profoundly influenced my perspectives about life. I will be reflecting on these experiences to help explain how my personal views about crime and life in cities have changed. The three criminality incidences I will be reflecting on include first, observing heavily armed police officers cordoning off areas after a crime has occurred, second, a high-speed car chase, and third, a robbery at a gas station.
Cordoned areas with police officers with assault rifles
I have experienced this incident three times in two cities in the United States. The first one was in New York, where I had visited with my friends shortly after enrolling in the University of Arizona. We were having a meal at a restaurant when we heard sirens of police vehicles moving down the block. So naturally, we went outside to look at what was happening. I saw the police surround a building block and push people away from it while placing some yellow tape around its entrance. I was first frightened by the heavily armed police officer carrying large, sophisticated guns and covered up in body amour. This is a scene I had only seen in movies, but then I was witnessing it live. None of us knew the cause of the police presence, although we later learned that they were after a group of criminals they had sought after for a long time. Although this event does not look like much, it was memorable to me because I had never witnessed a similar one in my lifetime. The first impression I got from this incident was that the response of the law enforcement in the United States is very prompt and forceful. Police officers come quickly to a scene, arrive in huge numbers, and appear well prepared for anything with sophisticated equipment like assault rifles, body armor, shields, armored vehicles, and ambulances. However, what surprised me most was the difference in my reaction to the incident compared to that of the Americans. While my curiosity while at the restaurant made me rush out to see what was happening, other people were more cautious, with some moving away from the area with police presence. This difference in reactions left a mark on my mind. Since then, I do not rush to a place where a crime has supposedly occurred out of curiosity. During the other two more or less similar incidences that I witnessed after that, my reaction was very different. I had to suppress my urge to move close to the area and keep a safe distance. When I discussed this reaction of the Americans, that of moving away from crime scenes, with my colleagues, they informed me that sometimes such incidences could turn violent and innocent people can be hurt as the criminals engage the police officers in a gun shoot out.
This was the first time I was experiencing a huge battalion of police officers arriving at a single place fully armed. Since I had never witnessed such as event back at home in Kuwait, it got me having mixed reactions. Firstly, I realized that the United States might have more criminal activities than my home country. However, despite this, the response to criminality was swift. This means that the Americans have a rapid response system aimed at protecting the public and the victims as well, considering that there was always an ambulance accompanying the police vehicles.
High Speed Chase
I witnessed a high-speed chase in Tucson, Arizona. This incident occurred in the area in which I live as a student. It started with hearing loud sirens, and upon looking out at the balcony of my residence, I saw a pickup truck being chased by two police cars. It later turned out that the pickup truck had been stolen from a nearby car pack. Although this was the first time I witnessed such an event in real life, I was also memorable as I had not witnessed a similar event back home in Kuwait.
Gas Station Robbery
I witnessed a gas station robbery in Chicago. This was the closest I had been to criminal activity in my life. We were filling gas in a vehicle at a filling station in Chicago. It was early evening, and darkness had just set in. Then, from the mini-shop next to the filling station, two people came out running with brown bags. One of them was carrying a pistol. They disappeared into the darkness as the shop owner came out running and shouting for them to stop. From what I had been told earlier, my first reaction was to hide in case a shootout occurred. Luckily no fire exchange occurred, and no one was injured.
Reflection of These Incidences
These three encounters with criminality have a memorable effect on me. Although I had watched several movies, I thought that all that was acting and that it does not actually happen in real life. However, seeing these incidences in the United States made me realize that crime is actually real and can take several forms. Back at home, crimes are less violent and the police response is less dramatic than that in the United States. This means that either there are more criminals in the United States than in Kuwait, or there is a better response to criminality in the United States than in Kuwait. While I will not try to answer this question here as it is not the focus of this reaction, I will try to explain how all these make me feel.
Firstly, for the first time in my life, I have come to believe that crime, and violent crime, is real. Although I have never witnessed any violent crime in my lifetime, the prospects of witnessing one in my lifetime are real as well. To me, this means that the world is not a safe place, even when there are many police officers to maintain public safety. But more importantly, although criminals know that there are law enforcement officers, I have been curious as to why they still continue with their criminal activities so boldly and courageously. Reflecting on this question has made me view the world much differently.
Secondly, this brings me to my second point. I now look at the world differently because the people who engage in criminal activities have a problem that I may not have encountered. For instance, I have not encountered a segment of people going hungry without food while their neighbors have food. In Kuwait, we share things a lot, including food. People always have friends over for meals and go to eat out in restaurants together as families. However, in the United States, such social activities are few, at least from what I witnessed. Although friends may go out to party together, sharing meals is rare. This is one of the most significant cultural differences that help me understand the presence of crime in cities. Now I wonder whether if people shared meals, there would be any crime in the United States. I say this because when I discussed the incidences I have described earlier, I was told that people engage in crime mostly because they are poor and may not have a meal for that day. That is why they rob others to secure their meal.
Thirdly, I feel that the issue about the criminality I have encountered is about more than just securing a meal as being the cause of criminality in cities. I have been brainstorming on why America has so many highly-educated people, and crime still thrives in the communities. I have come to the United States because it has one of the best education systems in the world. I have always believed that people seek academic advancement to secure livelihoods in the future. However, after coming to the United States, I am told that some of those who engage in crime are highly–educated as well, and that some of them have university degrees. Therefore, this means that being well educated does not necessarily shield one from turning into a criminal or engaging in occasional crime.
Thirdly, this raises another question about what is so unique about cities that inspires criminality. I have lived in cities before. However, I have not lived or visited a rural area before. Therefore, it is difficult for me to compare city and rural life and conditions that may contribute to criminality. Nonetheless, I have some ideas and opinions about why some cities may have more crime than others. I feel that culture and social norms significant role a big role in crime. It is possible that those who engage in crime are looking for shortcuts to live a certain lifestyle. I have noticed that life in cities is very glamorous, yet there are numerous differences in the people who live in them. Some people are very wealthy, while others are not so wealthy and are leading regular lives. Therefore, if a young person like me wants to enjoy the glamorous life of the rich, I might feel the urge to engage in crime to get wealthy quickly. Unfortunately, from the incidences I have witnessed in the United States, I think this route to riches would be very difficult and challenging. I have come to the United States to further my education, hoping to develop a career that would help me lead a comfortable life after that. But I have come to a land of numerous educational opportunities, and still find crime in the American cities. My thought about culture is that personal success matters much to people in American than it does to people in my home country. Although we are ruled by royal families back at home and Americans choose their leaders as they like, I would have expected crime to be less in American cities than in Kuwait City. So the reason must be that Americans and Kuwaitis have a different culture, which explains the culture shock I experienced the first time I came into the United States. I have realized that Americans enjoy more freedoms than Kuwaitis. Yet, Americans have a higher criminal tendency than I have witnessed before. It will take me a while to understand why this is so.
However, fourthly, could it be that the strict law enforcement in cities could be contributing to crime? Or is it possible that the multicultural nature of the American society could be a contributory factor? When I reflect on these questions, I feel that both situations may be contributing to crime in cities. Specifically, a heavy presence of law enforcement may cause some people to test their response for fun. The gas station robbery I watched may have been committed by young people who needed to prove that they could get away with it. I sometimes have feelings of courage, but those feeling have not led me to try to do something illegal, like stealing. In two of the three incidences, stealing other people’s property was the main crime. In one, a truck was stolen, and in another, some supplies from a shop were stolen. In all these occasions, the criminals were attempting to get away from the police. Although I did not get to know the outcomes in both incidences, I am told that some criminals get away while others get caught. Therefore, the fact that some people get away with a crime may inspire others to try the same. I am yet to prove my hypothesis.
Cities have conditions that invite criminality. I came to this conclusion because I have realized that cities have different people from different cultures, with different socioeconomic statuses, and with different mindsets. Why it may be difficult to eradicate crime in cities is because people are not all the same. Some have more money and property, and others have much less. These differences could be inspiring those with less to wish to take from those with more. However, having an equal society, although highly desirable, is very difficult to realize. Nonetheless, I wish there was a formula for creating an equal society. If I knew of one, I would recommend it to cities so that they experience no crimes.