by Eve Fisher
We live in a quiet neighborhood in what's called central Sioux Falls. We're close enough to two universities that, pre-COVID-19, we saw skateboarders with dreadlocks heading home from class, students playing hackey sack in someone's yard, students walking through snow wearing parkas and shorts. Late afternoons were always interesting; early mornings were always quiet.
It's a real neighborhood: ages range from families with small kids to a retiree who lives in Florida. People walk their dogs. One of our neighbors has two cats that roam around and take turns hanging out on various porches, including ours. Lots of old trees, old houses, old porches. Mostly quiet. The occasional fender bender or outright crash (especially when students are in a big hurry to get somewhere). The occasional argument that reaches a crescendo out on someone's porch, sidewalk, or on the street. Many of the latter are currently sparked by a Lothario in a rental who's running [at least] two women at the same time.
So it came as a shock when, a few weeks ago, the cops woke everyone up at midnight. We were sound asleep, and it took me a while to realize it wasn't a dream: someone really was banging on the door. And wouldn't stop. I pulled on my bathrobe and stepped gingerly toward the front door. I could see numerous cop cars, lights going like crazy in the street, and someone walking up and down our porch in between bangs. He stopped and shone a flashlight in through our living room window: and I will admit, even though it is Sioux Falls, SD, and I am a rapidly aging white woman in a quiet neighborhood - I held my breath as I turned on the living room light and waved. And went to open the door.
He was very polite. He apologized for waking us up, but there had been a drive-by, with a lot of shots fired, and he needed to know if everyone in the house was all right. I said yes. He asked if I was sure. I said, yes. Then he asked if I would please go through my house and check for bullet holes in the walls, and if I found any, to please let him know. And if not, I could just turn off the lights and go back to bed. I said I would, and began turning on all the lights, looking at all the walls, and thankfully, found nothing. (I did not check the detached garage - I figured it could wait till morning.)
I will say that there's nothing like checking the house for bullet holes to wake you up thoroughly, and it took me a long time to get back to sleep. Not to mention that the cops didn't leave for another hour or so, and the lights... And then it started to thunder... And storm...
The next day the whole neighborhood was groggy. But we all figured it was a one-off. My personal suspicion was that the Lothario had gotten into another fight and he or one of the shes was venting.
And then, two days later, around 2 in the morning, we all heard more gunshots - but this time it sounded like they came from the street(s) behind us. Turns out it did, a couple of blocks away. So a lot of us called the police and asked for more patrols for a while. And they are apparently working - things calmed down, and we're back to pretty much quiet, so that's good.
Along the line, we discovered that there's a house a few blocks away that recently became a rental and was rented (apparently) to people who've turned it into a drug house. "The police are keeping their eye on it", I was told. I drove by it a while back and it doesn't look nearly as trashy as you might expect.
Meanwhile, people are talking, worrying - and writing - about "what's happening to our wonderful community?" But Sioux Falls isn't Mayberry any more. Sure, back in the 1960s and 1970s it had only about 60,000-75,000 people. Even in 2000 it was only about 125,000. But today, metro Sioux Falls is around 260,000 people; it's the largest city in the state. We're at the intersection of the two interstates that cross South Dakota - I-29 and I-90. We're the medical center of the state - if you get in real trouble, this is where you'll be airlifted. We're the financial hub as well. And we have been promoted on national media a few times for being one of the best places to live.
Result? People move here. And with people comes trouble. Drug cases are increasing; crime is increasing generally; and almost every week guns are stolen from unlocked cars. Yes, you read that correctly - apparently people just aren't getting the memo that leaving guns in an unlocked car might not be a good idea. In fact, last night the local news announced that it had happened again... Sigh...
Still, it's a lot safer than Philadelphia, Los Angeles, or Atlanta, all of which Allan and/or I have lived. I'll stay put. Granted, I'll also keep an eye on the drug house and on the Lothario...
And I'll keep you all posted.