For many years I have walked past $2 million homes here in Berkeley on a daily basis. They were obviously nice houses but I had no idea they were that expensive. This discovery came up because I have been searching for a new home and have been using the internet as a search tool as mentioned last week in House hunting on the Internet.  It helps to get started with neighborhoods with which one is familiar because then there are concrete reference points upon which one can build one’s mental data base.

Neighborhood Scout provides maps of the Berkeley area where I have lived for fifty years and of Grass Valley, South Lake Tahoe, Carson City, Reno and lots of other places which I have been checking out. The opening screen on these clicks is the overview with median house values but there is a click-tab at the top for crime. That was the second shock for me because the Berkeley I have walked through so many, many times is a criminal sewer. This same place that has $2 million homes also has the highest crime rate of any place on any of these maps. It was a dead 0 – the worst of the worst. I was aware that the South Campus of the University of California area had a lot of derelicts. They are literally shipped in and dumped here by various authorities and they stay because of the free food, free medical care and generally permissive attitude toward their misconduct. It seems like such a nice neighborhood what could go wrong?

That was the third shocker, that the very most expensive neighborhood I have found should have the very worst crime statistics that I found and I was unconscious of the fact. I knew both facts but they never struck me as strange. The derelicts are there because only two blocks away from the mansions the huge population of homeless people are waiting for handouts and directly across the street from them is a free medical clinic. Along my daily seven block walk from the BART train station to my old coffee shop there would be on average a pile of broken window glass from a recently burglarized car about once a week. My personal thief, who broke into my car, was nice and only broke the small side window to get my radio. I probably wouldn’t have noticed so small a pile of glass if it wasn’t my window which was gone. The window repair only cost $120 and it could have been much worse with a bigger window. Some of my friends have been mugged but so far I haven’t suffered that depredation. Most of the time there isn’t the slightest problem with derelicts at least while you are looking in their general direction. But sometimes even then.

These types of  criminal problems are easily avoided by simply choosing a place to live which has a very low crime rate and nowadays that is easily done by using Neighborhood Scout. I have found some descent houses near the University of Nevada campus for low prices but the crime situation there is almost as bad as near the Berkeley campus. I like the intellectually stimulating atmosphere of being near a campus but it doesn’t seem like a first choice for an old man any more. Why not go to Markleeville, CA, which has low crime and plenty of peace and quiet and really bright stars at night? Why? Because it would probably be boring, but maybe not.