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Tsotsis in DC

Yglesias has a run-in with the dregs of humanity:
But then lo and behold right by Catania Bakery a couple of dudes ran up from behind, punched me in the head, then kicked me a couple of times before running off. Once, years ago, in Amsterdam a guy threatened me with a knife and took my money. These guys took nothing, and just inflicted a bit of pain. All things considered the threaten/rob model of crime seems a lot more beneficial to both parties than the punch-and-run model. But I guess it takes all kinds.
This dude's wry inner economist is one tough SOB. My worst encounter with tsotsis left me pissed and jumpy for weeks afterwards. He continues:
To offer a policy observation, higher density helps reduce street crime in an urban environment in two ways. One is that in a higher density city, any given street is less likely to be empty of passersby at any given time. The other is that if a given patch of land has more citizens, that means it can also support a larger base of police officers. And for policing efficacy both the ratio of cops to citzens and of cops to land matters. Therefore, all else being equal a denser city will be a better policed city.
The thing about police is undoubtedly true, but I think to have the extra passersby thing work one needs a public culture with a critical mass of people that will help others getting mugged or beat up. I've had three encounters with tsotsis here in Kuruman and every one of them was in broad daylight, within fifty yards of the biggest supermarket in town, on a sidewalk literally surrounded by people. Here tsotsis seem to like to attack in crowds because a) you can't run away as easily and b) they know no one will do a damn thing

On a side note, though I haven't had an attack in more than a year, I've become seriously jumpy as a pedestrian.  The other day I was walking around Vryburg and a mischievous friend decided to sneak up behind me and grab my backpack.  I wasn't paying much attention at the time, but I spun around super fast, going from spacing out to dukes-up, bring-it-motherfucker in about a femtosecond.  Crime does bad things to you.


  1. Same here, Ryan. I am very jumpy and super alert while walking the streets, no matter where in South Africa, eventhough it has been a year or more since I was mugged. Gentle surprises by people I know scare the heck out of me and it takes a while to regain control/calm again. I wonder if we will take this affliction back to the USA with us. I hope not. B

  2. I think cities will probably always do it; I remember being pretty paranoid in NYC before Peace Corps. But I am looking forward to hanging out with my folks where you don't even have to lock the doors.

  3. I think cities do it too. Having lived in Chicago for the past 2 years, I'm now considerably jumpier than I was in college or back home near Seattle. Unfortunately, some part of me feels that this jumpiness was (and still is) justified, since a good friend of mine got mugged 3 blocks from my house.

    Or maybe I'm just another hick who grumbles about how the cityfolk don't got no manners.
    -Steele E. Dan


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