As I mentioned in my previous post, I was born in Huntington, WV. I was raised right across the Ohio River, but spent most of my time in the Huntington area. Growing up, if you wanted something to do, you went to Huntington. I used to jokingly say that the only things I did in Ohio were go to school and sleep. Because of this experience growing up, I always had more of a connection to Huntington than I did to the smaller towns of Ohio. It’s because of this connection that I’m writing this post.
I miss Huntington. I have very fond memories of the land and the people. Some would say I’m homesick. As I have researched some issues for other posts, what I have realized is that in many ways, it’s my home that is sick – sick with the decaying rot of crime and poverty.
Let me clarify.
I currently live in the suburbs of Chicago. My current surroundings are definitely a far cry from Appalachia. People often ask me about the dangers of Chicago as the city is often in the news with stories of rampant crime and gang activity. What I have found to be quite disheartening is that Huntington actually has a higher crime rate than Chicago. According to Neighborhood Scout, Chicago’s crime rate is 43.71 per 1000 residents. Huntington, on the other hand, has a crime rate of 56.87 per 1000 residents. Not only is the crime rate in Huntington higher than Chicago’s, it’s higher than the national average – in every category of violent and property crimes.
These facts are truly disturbing to me. It makes me weep whenever I visit Huntington as I can feel an aura of darkness permeating throughout the city. More than anything, it’s not fear that I feel, but sadness. This is most definitely not the Huntington of my youth. My memories of growing up in the Huntington area are brighter when it comes to the land and the people. Because of this, I still believe in Huntington. I believe that things can improve, and I refuse to give up on this ideal.
There are many intersecting issues related to crime – from economic disadvantages, budgetary cuts to social programs, lacking of funding and awareness for mental health issues, education cuts, and the influx of the opioid crisis which has been driven by pharmaceutical companies flooding the market (see the CDC report on prescription rates and drug overdose rates). How can we fix it? I do know that it won’t be simple. We often hear of one-sided reactions to these problems as if they are the magical elixir of life. I have a hunch that such complex issues will not be resolved with simple solutions. My guess is that it will take a multifaceted approach that addresses all the correlations rather than “fixing” one symptom of the problem.
I don’t have all the answers. What I do have is a commitment to looking into these issues in other posts, along with addressing other social issues within the Huntington community. I feel like I owe it to myself and to the area to continue speaking out and keeping faith that one day, Huntington will be a place where people will feel safe in raising a family.