Dispatches from a Reporter's Notebook

Desperate Times

Posted February 4, 2009
Updated February 5, 2009

One of the dismal side effects of a floundering economy is more crime – and not just your run-of-the mill crime, but desperate crime. I define this as something people wouldn't normally do unless they were backed into a corner. As more people lose homes, lose jobs and lose their ability to pay their bills, I think we will unfortunately see more of this type of crime.

I saw a movie the other night called "New In Town." One of the characters had lost his job and said to his ex-boss, "I'm living with my ex-wife, in my ex-house, paying rent to sleep in my ex-basement." The line was meant to be funny, but I think it illustrates the tragic situation many people are facing as our financial woes seem to plague more and more families.

So what can we do about it? I think the first thing we all need to do is be mindful of the fact  that people are willing to take more risks and to be bold when it comes to trying to get your money or your valuables. Two weeks ago, a man robbed a pizza place in broad daylight at gunpoint on Hillsborough Street.  This week, a man knocked on a woman's door in Boylan Heights, told her he had a weapon, and made her drive to an ATM machine to withdraw money. Luckily, no one was injured in either of these incidents, but an armed robbery is just one click away from a murder.

Sometimes I feel that we in the media sound like a broken record when we repeat the mantras of police officers: Be aware of your surroundings. Don't walk alone at night. Done leave valuables in plain site in your car. Don't open the door to strangers. Don't get into a car even with someone who is armed. But the truth is, there has never been a more important time to follow these suggestions.

It's not paranoid to watch out for your own safety and the safety of those around you. It is a simple fact: the world we live in has changed, and we must change with it.

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WRAL's Amanda Lamb offers a behind-the-scenes look at what TV news reporters do, the people they meet and how their jobs affect them.