August 2015: Update at bottom
For the most part I really like Pensacola.
We have gorgeous beaches, a great University, a thriving downtown area with great restaurants and bars, and it's a pretty affordable place to live (if you can get a job that is.)
There are a few things about Pensacola I don't love. The biggest being the ever-present reality that I have to think carefully about going into certain parts of town by myself. When I first moved to Pensacola in 2007 my then boyfriend and I moved into a small duplex on the West side. At the time we were unaware of how ridiculous the crime was in that area. The couple that lived next to us were constantly selling drugs out of their house, and one night we woke up to a car crashing into the side of the duplex. We later found out it was a drug deal gone wrong (they tried to take the drugs and speed away without paying.) Good times! I still remember emailing my professor in graduate school at 3 a.m. and asking that I be excused from class that morning due to excessive nerves.
A recent article citing Escambia county (where Pensacola is located) as being the most violent county in the state of Florida got me thinking about all this again. When I first heard we were at the top of the list I was shocked. I mean, we're more violent than Miami - really?! Then I realized why I was so surprised. The City of Pensacola, and Pensacola as people who live here think about it (from this point on referred to as Real Pensacola) are two very, very different areas.
See - the city lines are drawn such that they include only the nicest parts of Pensacola. Leaving out all the less desirable parts where most of the poor people and minorities live. You know, the one's that can muck up our pretty statistics. So, the City of Pensacola has a population of about 54,000 people (with 80,000+ more residing in Real Pensacola) and it's crime dropped 14% in 2013. That's great and I'm glad our Mayor seems so productive about reducing crime rates further, but those statistics don't seem as impressive when they come out the same week as those showing Escambia county to be the most violent county in Florida.
The trend that's the most disturbing to me is that there have been a string of young females found murdered, or reported missing, in Pensacola over the years. Some of them are still unsolved to this day. In 2010 I was working in advising when news broke of two young females being found brutally physically and sexually assaulted and dumped off of Nine Mile Road.
While a young man was indicted in the murder of Jamie Broxson, there have still been no arrests made for Debra Jones.
More recently PSC employee Tiffany Daniels went missing on August 12, 2013. Her car was found on Pensacola beach and to this day her friends and family have no idea what may have happened to her. Yesterday WKRG reported that her family now wonders if she may be the victim of human trafficking (Florida ranks 3rd in the states for that.)
What I don't like is that the city of Pensacola acts as the 'face' of Real Pensacola and the two are dramatically different. I found interactive crime maps online for each and looked at the number of assaults (sexual and physical) over the last 30 days.
City of Pensacola had 59.
Real Pensacola had (307 - 59 in city limits) 248.
I don't like feeling as though I can't walk out my front door and go for a run without fearing for my safety. I don't like thinking that there is somebody out there who know's what happened to those girls and Pensacola has just moved on and stopped showing interest in finding out what happened.
I think it's time we do better Pensacola.
How safe do you feel in your city?
What initiatives has your city taken to reduce crime rates?
August 12, 2015: I'm amazed at how popular this post has become! I get emails nearly weekly from people looking to move to the Pensacola area who are worried about safety and which neighborhoods are best. There are some great aspects to Pensacola; the downtown area is thriving, the beaches are gorgeous, and UWF and the hospital systems are excellent. You can certainly find nice areas to live at (anywhere in East Hill, around the mall/airport, and East Pensacola Heights are my favorite) but the crime problem isn't getting any better. The Pensacola News Journal just released this article discussing how SEVEN people have been killed in Pensacola in just the last two weeks. It's unfortunate that such a great area is continuing to be invaded by violent crime.