Wednesday, April 13, 2011

What To Say When Asked If The North End Is Safe

I received an email a few days ago from a person I do not know. The person asked if I thought the North End was safe enough for him and his wife to move to. They wanted to purchase a house and could only afford the price range available in the North End. The person thought it would be an ok move if it was just him, but was concerned about the safety of his wife.
What am I to say. I do not want to be responsible for someone making an incorrect decision. What if they move in and something bad happens. What if they do not move in and never get to meet the great people who could have been their neighbours.
Well, I thought about it, and made a decision on what to tell this person. I thought about what I would want to know prior to moving here, and what I should be looking for. This is how the conversation went:

Random Person Question: 
Hi there, random question from a random person!
I was wondering how you like living in the North End? It's the only area we can really afford to buy a house, and I'd be fine living there if it were just me - but I worry about my wife's safety. Do you feel un-safe?
My Response:
That is a loaded question. First, if you are not a gang member, and are not involved in illegal activities, the likelihood of bad things happening to you, yours, your property, is greatly reduced. Second, summer is always more active than winter for noise and activity. Third, each block should be looked at seperately for good / bad houses. If the houses on the block you are wanting to purchase on are all in good repair and have clean yards, it is a good block. Check the houses you share a back lane with as well, as they affect you as well. Fourth, it depends what part of the North End you are looking at. There is a difference between Magnus and Main and, say, McGregor and Atlantic. Drive down the front of the street and the back lane. Get a look at the immediate neighbourhood. Do the neighbours care enough to pick up the garbage that is just showing up from under the snow? Are they starting to rake their yards? Or are there stacks of mattresses and overfilled dumpsters, with garbage spread under and around the dumpsters? If the neighbours care about the area, it is a fairly good area. If the neighbours have broken windows, unpainted houses, abandoned cars and couches in their yards, and garbage everywhere, they don't care about the neighbourhood or the neighbours.
If you base your safety decisions on news releases, they seem to miss reporting that the "female mother of a young child visiting the gang house at 4am" had to be involved in some way with the gang members. The news played up the fact that she was not a gang member, and was just at the wrong place at the wrong time. Think about what is not being said in those news reports before you jump to the conclusions that these incidents are happening to absolutely innocent people like you and me. I personally don't party at gang houses at 4am.
I hope I have answered your question.
And I hope I have answered your questions on whether you should give the North End a chance when looking for a new home, deciding if you should stay, or wondering if you will visit your friends who live in the North End. It is not as bad as everyone makes it out to be. You won't get shot from just dropping in on a friend or walking down a street. The North End is a neighbourhood, like many of the other older neighbourhoods in the City. It is just in need of a little tender loving care.
My day to day concerns are with garbage in and around my yard, and rowdy neighbours in the middle of the night.


  1. I would (and generally do!) give a very similar response. I never in about a million years expected to move to the North End, and I think it's the best decision I ever made.

    Would I walk down the street at 2am with a case of beer? No, and not just because I really hate beer. Would I go for a walk by myself? You bet. Would I use the same common sense precautions that I should use in every neighbourhood? Yes. Recently a sexual predator has reminded women in neighbourhoods all around the city (St. James, Garden City to name two) that women face different challenges then men when it comes to being victims of crime.

    Not that "good" people don't have bad things happen to them in the North End, but as echoed above, "good" people aren't at a party at a gang house. Maintaining your property and taking a few extra precaution is worth its weight in gold. Get a fence. Lock up your BBQ. Put your bike away. Most of the petty crimes that admittedly do happen here, are crimes of opportunity.

    The "bad" people tend to mess a little less with the nice people because they know that they're more likely to get caught - the guy running a grow-op probably isn't going to report a break and enter, you will.

    I've had my flowers stolen (no, really.) and yeah, it sucks, but for the $1000 less a year that I pay in property taxes over my friends in other parts of town, I can replace a flower pot.

  2. Great & well thought out response to "random question"! Heartily agree. My husband & I are raising 3 young children on a "good" block (Manitoba Ave @ Main) and do not worry about our safety. We are also having an outstandingly positive school experience attending David Livingstone. A great place to live, not without it's minor frustrations.

  3. I will third the following comments in saying that I too live in the north end and find it to be okay, safe to a reasonable standard. There are trouble spots to avoid (between Burrows and Selkirk, around McGregor, Andrews, Powers comes to mind), but even then you can feel safe walking there during the day.

    Alexa, I'm glad you like David Livingstone. That would be a big concern for me- quality of schools and such. The unfortunate fact of inner city schools is that they battle so many other social issues that teaching the kids who are there can fall to the wayside.

  4. Oh, and one more thing: not every run-down house is lived in by delinquents or goons. There are so many old people living in this neighborhood who don't have the help they need to do house upkeep. That said, general yard tidiness, which includes freedom from broken strollers and debris does go along way in showing that someone is an okay person in spite of their house.

  5. I am on Atlantic between McGregor and Mackenzie...I love it here!!!! I have great neighbors :)

  6. When I moved to W Broadway a dozen or so years ago it was just after it hit rock bottom. People asked me the same question and I honestly think that familiarity is such a huge factor.

    Yes, for a while the spider senses were on max as I explored and learned about the neighbourhood but after a while (if you take the proper time) you get to know what's a good situation / location and what's not and avoid the latter.

    I agree with the comment above about run down looking houses (or people, for that matter) and judging their 'safeness' based on appearance. There are lots of people who rely on that as a their prime indicator and they are likely likely the ones who get jumped at suburban nighclubs and have their wallets lifted on the high streets and museums of beautiful cities around the world.

  7. You gave a great response. It is exactly what we looked at when we went house hunting in the North End. It is all we could afford too. We love our street! I was a little hesitant when we moved in. We are close to a corner and have an apartment house behind us. I was so pleasantly surprised! The neighbours where so glad we would be living in and not renting it out. A house that is bought and lived in is always prized in the street.

    The apartment block turned out to be a place where new immigrants are housed for awhile. They are just great! The communication is usually in sign language but a smile is a smile in any language. The kids are playing soccer in the back lane already.

    If you like diversity, friendly neighbours and great food shopping this is the neighbourhood for you.

    I am a woman and walk to the bus on Main Street in the morning in the dark and I never feel afraid. Just be aware as you would in any neighbourhood. There are no streets where a woman is completely safe and all women should know that. Most of the crimes against persons in the North End are directed at young males and they usually know each other.

    So I hope they buy a house and I hope it is near me....Welcome!!!!

  8. Excellent answers, I love the North End, North Point Douglas in particular.It's a lot like travelling in Mexico stay away from gangs and drugs and you are fine, don't flash gold chains and yes don't carry a 12 pack after dark put the bottles in a cloth bag so they can't be seen.
    I have the friendliest and most helpful neighbours here in the North End that I have ever had.