Most Asian cities are considered very safe compared to their American counterparts. It's been one of the great things about Shanghai. In general, violent crime is almost unheard of, and the worst that can happen is getting your purse snatched.
Living in Philly, it was the norm to see headlines about murders, shootings, etc. I also worked in North Philadelphia, one of the worst neighborhoods in the city. One time, my friend Alix and I got caught in the middle of police chase on the way to work. While at a stop sign, the suspect (we later found out that he was wanted for a stabbing) suddenly rolled across the hood of Alix's blue Toyota Echo. A few moments later, a couple of cops --who looked like that they had had too many doughnuts -- chased him down the street. I couldn't imagine something like that happening here.
With the lack of crime here, it only takes a couple of events to create a stir. Earlier this month, a man went on a stabbing spree in a local police station. Six officers died as a result. Reports said that Yang Jia, 28, carried a hammer, a dust mask and an unlit Molotov cocktail along with the knife into the building. He set eight beer bottles on fire outside the gate of the bureau's office as a diversionary tactic and stabbed an officer when he intervened. The motive? Revenge for being questioned by the police from the bureau last October for allegedly stealing bikes, according to the local newspaper.
Last week, an 18-year-old man killed a Canadian model in her high rise apartment after she tried to fight him off during a robbery (www.usatoday.com/life/people/2008-07-11-obrienmurder_N.htm). Diana O'Brien, 22, came to Shanghai with the hopes of expanding her modeling portfolio. Her death has resulted in the exposure of the city's unregulated modeling industry where models are asked to dance at bars or work at corporate parties.
One Shanghai casting call asked for models to strip to their underwear and jump on a trampoline while being filmed, said Jeremy Stockton Johnson, a fashion photographer who said he also has been asked if models are available to strip at parties. Worse cases include agencies that take away a model's passport or withhold payment until the end of a contract. (From USA Today via the Associated Press)
Needless to say, the expat community has been talking about these events. In my nine months here, this is most violent and disturbing news that has come along.
Closer to home and in no way comparable to the tragic events mentioned above are some recent muggings right outside my apartment complex. Two muggings in one week. There's a Hofbrauhaus, Starbucks, Papa John's and Julie's Cafe on this street, but it gets pretty quiet at night In one incident, a group of three people robbed someone. Then a resident from the complex was mugged in the other case. Someone sucker punched the 16-year-old as he rounded a corner near the Hofbrauhaus. Luckily, he wasn't seriously injuried from the incident. (He even got some punches in and drew blood.)
Getting to these restaurants is literally a 2 minute walk from our complex. It's unfortunate that I have to rethink going over there by myself now. Maybe I should have all along. While Shanghai is still a safe place, recent events serve as a reminder to always be more cautious than needed when it comes to your personal safety.