Is it Dangerous to Park Downtown?

Broken Glass

It’s something that I wondered before we moved to the city nearly four years ago. For those of you who scoff, consider that we’d been parking in an enclosed garage attached to our house for the previous sixteen years. That feels pretty safe for people and for cars. It has its downside in terms of relations to neighbors (you never have to actually see them), but it’s safe.

It’s a concern I hear often from people who are considering venturing into the urban environment whether for a night on the town or for a new residence. The options include parking on the street or inside the large, shared garages. I talked to one family who took their chances and got booted in a private lot simply to avoid what they considered a scarier option in a free garage (it was a holiday). We’ve all seen the scenario in movies: screeching tires from a car careening down the levels of a garage and ultimately spraying the victims with multiple gun shots. Alternately, there is the single attack scene from a lurking bad guy.

I’ve not heard of a single attack in a parking garage since I’ve lived downtown. It just doesn’t happen. In fact, the recent maps of various crimes provided by the Knoxville News Sentinel generally show that violent crime is lower downtown than in many other parts of the city. Downtown assaults tend to translate into fights among acquaintances and I’ve not heard any account of spraying bullets, screeching tires or personal attacks.

That’s not to say there isn’t crime. My friend Greg, a downtown resident for the last year had his car broken into recently. He was parked on the fifth floor of the Locust Street Garage. It was his first break-in since moving to the city a year ago and it was the second I’ve heard of in that garage. He also noted that the car beside him had apparently been hit, making a third case if you want to separate them out that way.

Urban Woman and I own two cars and park them both in that garage and have done so for nearly four years and our cars have never been broken into. Our worst experience is that her license plate (which bears a UF logo) was bent into a “C” shape. She also had a burger (an expensive one, it appeared) smeared all over her windshield. It was a game weekend, so we assumed it was sports related.

There do appear from the maps to be more break-ins in or around the Old City and that matches what I’ve heard from downtown residents. I suspect that has to do with being on the edges of the revitalized areas of the city. Under I-40 and beneath the James White Parkway may be free parking, but it’s also a bit removed from  most of the foot traffic downtown. In Greg’s case, he was on the fifth floor, which is the least utilized and most out-of-the-flow spot in the garage. He had to park there because of an event in the city when he drove in.

Officers downtown suggest that we avoid having visible items inside our cars which can easily translate into money – even  a small amount. I’ve been told that even a few pennies in sight from outside the car make it more likely to be a target. Certainly anything expensive should not be left inside a car parked downtown – or parked anywhere, for that matter. Our last, very nice, West Knoxville neighborhood had a large number of car break-ins and almost always a laptop, phone, ipod, CDs or something valuable or apparently valuable was visible.

So, is it safe? Safety is in the eye of the beholder to a degree. For us, we heard of far more car break-ins in our west Knoxville neighborhood and we’ve had eight car-years of no significant problem. If your car is breached, this will be cold comfort, of course. With certainty, however, I can say there is no great danger to your car and virtually none to your person if you park downtown. So, come on down and don’t be afraid.

Downtown readers, what are your experiences? How many car-years without a problem? Have a break in? Where were you parked?


Discover more from Inside of Knoxville

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading