Downtown Reno—safer than home

I’ve lived there, worked there, interviewed people there, walked my dogs there and played there. I love downtown Reno.

Two random shootings though, weeks apart, have reporters begging questions about the city’s safety. Oh my. Crime happened. Is it Safe To Go Downtown? Whew, city leaders and business owners say Reno’s fine. What a relief.

What are they going to say? Tell people to not come downtown for a ball game, live theater or concert? Not to gamble, eat, drink and cavort in the Truckee River?

I don’t mean to be dismissive but “Is Reno safe?” seems a dubious news story, making downtown seem scarier than, say, Interstate 80—the Killer Freeway. Or worse than Mill Street, where a 45-year-old Sparks woman, riding her bike in a bike lane, was run over and killed by a Waste Management garbage truck on June 7. Are Reno’s streets dangerous for bikers? (Indeed.)

Domestic violence receives sparse press. Is it safe to be at home in Sparks? Not if your roommate hits you over the head and strangles you (June 12). Not if your girlfriend, grieving for her pet, stabs you with a knife (June 20).

Reno PD’s crime rates show public drunkenness and assaults have stayed about the same in three years. About 100 fewer fights in the past two years. Reno police are, overall, dispatching fewer officers to crimes, according to stats in the RG-J.

Wait, though. Doesn’t Reno have fewer officers to dispatch? There’s a story. Are Reno crimes unreported because the city can’t pay its bills?

I began this column by professing affection for Reno. I’ve been in the Freight House District—site of recent shooting—fairly late, walking and biking, and I’ve never felt uneasy.

I’ve parked by Louis’ Basque Corner on East Fourth Street and walked to eating and drinking establishments nearby. No problems—not even when Record Street was lined with sidewalk sleepers last year.

The Truckee River Bike Path—from East Sparks to Mayberry through downtown Reno—feels safe, smells lovely in places, and makes me generally happy.

Some of my favorite establishments are south of Reno’s strip. I’ve enjoyed Wells Avenue pub crawls, sampled Duncan Mitchell’s designer cocktails at Chapel Tavern on South Virginia and dug live music at St. James Infirmary and Biggest Little City Club on California Avenue (the street on which the May shooting occurred). If the weather’s warm, I’ll frequently be on the deck at Silver Peak Brewery’s original—and best—location on Wonder Street.

Reno’s full of interesting surprises.

One morning around 2 a.m., downtown with a Bay Area friend, I wandered onto the set of a film. Virginia Street was closed in front of Harrah’s for the shooting of sci-fi thriller Animals (2008), starring Marc Blucas (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) and Naveen Andrews (Lost). Andrews sat on a canvas chair, near Fitzgerald’s, next to a dark-haired model-type beauty in filmy silk. Exotic!

A crowd gathered to watch a minor actor (Frat Boy No. 1) run toward the Reno Arch in white underwear and athletic socks.

The camera operator tripped. His $20,000 camera (I asked) flew through the air and landed, sending plastic and electronic detritus everywhere.

The crowd cheered. One bystander said he wished he had filmed the moment. He turned to his girlfriend, “Did you see that? Where else but in Reno could you see something like that?”

Probably in Hollywood, but they have lots more crime there—and no Arch.

If you’re a resident of Deep Sparks or Way-South Reno who fears downtown, I feel bad for you. I hope you’re getting along with your housemates. Because you never know just how secure you’ll be at home.

And because Saturday, I’m going downtown to see Brüka Theatre’s Angry Housewives.

Editor’s note: This column was turned in before another shooting in downtown Reno over the weekend. Pike says it doesn’t alter her downtown comfort level.