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News-Sentinel.com Your Town. Your Voice.
Opening Arguments

South side blues

This is a tricky one to comment on:

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) - Merlin Seslar Jr. spent Monday packing his belongings into a U-Haul and moving across town.

"I'm sad to leave my home, but I have to protect my child, protect myself and protect everything I own," Seslar said.

Seslar's lived in a house on Hoagland Avenue for four years. He said last year his home was broken into once and twice more so far this year. He said his garage had been broken into three times. He added that just a few blocks away drug deals often happen right out in the open on the street. In March, there was a fatal shooting in broad daylight at Rudisill Boulevard and Indiana Avenue. That's less than a mile from where Seslar lived.

"Crime on this side of town is getting ridiculous. I don't feel safe with my son around. It's time to get out of the neighborhood," Seslar said. "You see all the 'For Sale' signs everywhere because they're leaving their homes because of the same thing happening to them."

This is going to elicit charges of sensationalism and unfair reporting from the people who live on the south side and are working hard to improve both its condition and its image; indeed, check out the comments section of the WANE story to see just that reaction. And they have a point, if not as big a one as they imagine -- it is unfair to paint that whole part of town as a monolith when it is as varied as any other part of of town. All the places I've ever lived here -- first with my parents and then when I came back to town on my own -- have been on the south side, and I know the Anthony-Reed area, where my parents had the first and last house they ever owned, is very different today from the Oakdale neighborhhod I live in.

But the man has a point, too. If you come to the conclusion your family is no longer safe somewhere, the debate is sort of over for you. Moving becomes not just an honorable option but the most prudent one, however much scorn it earns from those who think you should dig in and put up the good fight. Moving also sends a signal to the city's political leaders that something isn't working. Only so many neighborhoods can be written off if a city wants to remain halfway civilized.

After my father died, my mother and sister continued to live at the Reed Street house, until the day a drive-by shooter put a bullet through the wall just above the bed where my sister was sleeping. They stayed at my house that night, and got the hell out of Reed Street and into an apartment on the near northeast side just as quickly as they could. So, while I respect and admire those who choose to stay and fight, I would never, ever disagree with those who decide to put their family's safety first.