Gripped By a Spirit of Fear

Posted: January 19, 2012 in government, Leadership, Neighborhoods, South Bend, vision

[This is a series of blogs dealing with issues pertaining to condition of neighborhoods on the South Side of South Bend.  You can read the first couple of posts here & here.]

For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. – Apostle Paul

As you drive along the South Side of South Bend there is a divide that takes place at Ewing Ave.  South of Ewing, you are in the 5th city council district and in the zip code of 46614.  North of Ewing you are in the 6th city council district and are now in the zip code of 46613.  Not only is there a divide in council districts and zip codes, but there is also a divide in regards to the socio-economic demographic and with it a spirit of fear.

What you will notice as you move north of Ewing is that many homes have their front yard fenced in.  On the south side of Ewing, almost no residence has their front yard fenced in.  If they do, it is for decor.  But on the north side, the fences are not for aesthetic value – they are for security.  They are taller fences with locks.  And through it you can see a growing spirit of fear.

Whenever a spirit of fear grips a neighborhood, the future is not bright.  Panic sets in.  People begin to isolate themselves (thus becoming not very good neighbors) and look for opportunities to leave to a “safer” neighborhood.  That is why police investigators are so eager to want to resolve any crime or mystery to alleviate the contagion that comes with a spirit of fear.

My first real experience with a community spirit of fear came at the Miami Hills Apartments.  One day I went to the apartment complex to figure out a map of the buildings and the numeration of apartments within each building.  I parked my car in the apartment complex and received a phone call before getting out of the car.  While on the phone, a guy starts to circle my car.  Finally, after several passes, he came up to the window and asked if I knew what time it was.  He then went on his way.  Unbeknownst to me, as I was sitting in my car, small pockets of people had gathered together in different sections of the parking lot.  I got out of the car and approached a gathering of three women to ask a question about the signage on the building and the numbers on the apartments.  As I approached and asked my question, the only reply I received was a hushed…”are you FBI?”  Taken back I asked, “What?”  She repeated, “Are you FBI?”  I laughed (and honestly was a little flattered that she even thought I could get into the FBI) and then told her who I was and what I was doing.  And then we had a 15 minute conversation about their kids, Vacation Bible Schools, etc.

But what I saw was a spirit of fear.  And when a spirit of fear grips a neighborhood – it takes over.  You become afraid of everyone.  You are afraid of crime.  You are afraid of strangers.  You are afraid of police.  You are afraid of your neighbors (and especially your neighbor’s teenage kids).  You fence your front yard.  You put in security systems (or at least a sticker that makes it look like you have a security system).  You buy a dog.  You put up a “beware of dog” sign.  And you barricade your home.  And you dream of the day when you can move to Granger.

Your neighborhood is guaranteed to decline.

There are other signs:  notice how many people go to a garage sale north of Ewing versus in a subdivision south of Ewing.  Note the absence of little kids playing outside in the front yard in the middle of the summertime.

If a neighborhood is going to see revitalization, one thing that must be addressed is the spirit of fear that is gripping the neighborhood.

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Comments
  1. the other ed says:

    I have lived in the area you are talking about. There is a very real “feel” to the neighborhood. What I mean to say is, you feel worse, just by driving through, much less live there.
    The people are gruffer. They are paranoid, not just about crime, but their own neighbors. Everyone is out to get them. The only thing I have ever seen that helps with this is when they have a neighborhood block party. Also, the fall party that used to occur on Miami Street.
    People WANT to be a part of the community, they are just afraid. They want to be a part of something bigger.
    They want to let their kids play outside. And they NEED to know that they are cared about!
    Community involvement and fellowship would go a LONG ways towards bringing any of these at risk communites (and they are at risk) back to a neighborhood, not just a gathering of houses.

  2. david says:

    We have a security sign w/o the actual service (I hope nobody from my neighborhood checks this blog!). I laughed when I read that.

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