For Safer Streets

Oh, consciousness raising--what inanities have been caused by its practice! How else can one explain the remark of an otherwise seemingly quite sensible Prof. Dolores Hayden that danger in the streets has its roots in "Victorian patriarchal views that reserved public life for men only" ("Feminists Say Safe City Design Would Allay Risk to Women" by Ann Japenga, May 8)?

First, please direct me to the Victorian parts of Westwood and environs.

But, more to the point, it isn't so. I do not pretend to personal knowledge of Victorian or even Edwardian times, but I did grow up in a city (Indianapolis) of street cars on fixed tracks, a downtown central market and tree and shrubbery-covered college campuses, all of them regularly negotiated with impunity by women. Those were the days when motormen helped women with packages, might stop in the middle of the block if that were more convenient and made high school boys get up and surrender their seats.

Why do you suppose that those basically unplanned systems worked while today's much better planned passive measures are not satisfactory to the planners? I fear the ACLU would not like the answer.

You see, those streetcar motormen would not let a drunk or a bum aboard even if he had money, much less any group of teen-agers carrying loud radios. Stray people were not allowed to lurk around parks or bus stops. . . . Police all over the country regularly hustled undesirables off the public areas.

Some things can be done without stepping on sensitive toes. One local hospital whose parking structure became a danger spot for late-night visitors and nurses put on a civilian guard who inquires politely of anybody just hanging around. The much maligned (Chicago) Mayor Richard Daley put a uniformed policeman on each subway train and thus smothered the sort of confrontation that might drive a Bernie Goetz to distraction. I, for one, have never understood why a uniformed policeman is not assigned to any school with violence problems--a far better use of police than harassing prostitutes or checking out massage parlors.

Perhaps the next conference should invite faculty from the various law schools to see if something can be worked out to allow for citizen freedom of movement and yet protect citizens from the lurking threat. I admit that the female professors I have met tend to be screaming defenders of liberty, but they are intelligent and imaginative. Exposure to the concerns of the other conferees might inspire interest in freeing the general citizenry so that it can move about at least as freely as was possible under those awful Victorian patriarchs.


Newport Beach

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World