A lot of our own beliefs stem from our perception of what's real vs. false.
So I read with interest the Atlanta Crime Perception Survey released earlier this month. In it, our East Atlanta neighborhood didn't fare so well in perception of safety.
Of the 600 registered Atlanta voters surveyed, 28 percent said going to East Atlanta for entertainment purposes was totally unsafe, compared with the 54 percent who felt very or somewhat safe.
The only area respondents said they said was less safe than East Atlanta was Southwest Atlanta, where 33 percent said they felt it was unsafe to go there.
Buckhead ranked as the neighborhood survey participants said they felt safest going to for entertainment.
Some 78 percent responded they felt very or somewhat safe going to Buckhead, compared with eight percent who said it wasn't safe at all.
It's true that there's more incidents of crime in some of the neighborhoods that comprise East Atlanta Patch than in Buckhead.
For example, of the seven murders reported last year in the Atlanta Police Department's Zone 6, which includes East Atlanta Village, Kirkwood and Ormewood Park among other neighborhoods, five were in East Atlanta Patch.
That's compared with APD's Zone 2, which includes Buckhead. Zone 2 reported 3 murders for all of 2010, two of which were in the neighborhoods that make up Buckhead Patch.
With robberies, another area of concern all over the city, there were 312 reported in Zone 6 last year, while Zone 2 had a little more than half that figure for the same time period.
So judging by those numbers and crime stats, our area is less safe. But I don't think it's an unsafe area, and the difference is more than semantic.
When I first moved to Atlanta, I lived in Poncey-Highland and bought my home in East Atlanta Village a year later. I was panhandled in both neighborhoods and some of my neighbors have had to deal with auto break-ins and burglaries.
And, a few years ago, one friend was carjacked behind a restaurant on Glenwood Avenue, just down the street from the Flat Shoals Avenue intersection.
Those are annoying, unnerving and scary.
But crime is not just an East Atlanta problem. Crime can and will happen anywhere.
Just last week, there was an apparent in Atlantic Station — an area that came second only to Buckhead in terms of how safe survey respondents felt going there.
And earlier this year, police issued alert in Buckhead following three burglaries and sexual by a man detectives believed to be the same person.
The point is, no area is totally immune.
I do think there are some factors we have in our control that can help reshape perception and reality for East Atlanta and surrounding neighborhoods, when it comes to crime.
Some crimes are instances of opportunity. On weekends, I see lots of Georgia State, Emory and Tech kids and other hipsters patronizing the bars in East Atlanta and other hotspots in Little Five Points.
In some instances, I see them walking — er, stumbling — to their cars parked on one of the dark side streets. Even if they're not tipsy, they're sometimes oblivious to what's going on around them because they're busy chatting away on their cell phones at 3 a.m. Other times, I see women going to their cars and upon getting there, they waste precious seconds fumbling around their purses for keys. Again, we shouldn't expect the worst, but we should be aware of our surroundings and who's around us.
You can bet would-be robbers are always scoping for victims they think will give them the least amount of resistance and in most situations avoid those people who are likely to make things a little difficult.
Another thing in our control is the deployment of our police resources. APD's Zone 6 stretches from where Lindbergh Drive crosses I-85 just below the Ga 400 exit on its northern boundary, all the way south past Constitution Road to the Rebel Valley Forest neighborhood.
Zone 2, however, is much more compact with a lower volume of calls.
It's one reason why APD is in the process of its zones to quicken response times and equalize the work load.
That ought to cut down the frequency of crime in Atlanta overall, which has been trending downward, these last few years.
Another component that should help is the sense of community that's developed here. In the nearly 10 years that I've lived in East Atlanta, I've seen the neighborhood change as people have fixed up homes, taken down burglar bars and spruced up their yards with flowers and shrubs. People care to know their neighbors and to know what's happening on their block.