Recently my friend David Klaus has been calling my attention to a new spate of articles on the topic of violence in St. Louis (here's one in the Guardian, and another one riffing on it at the CBS St. Louis web site).
For 12 years, I lived a few blocks south of Natural Bridge Avenue and just west of the St. Louis city limit. My kids both went to school on, or within a block or so of, Natural Bridge. Yeah, it was bad, but if I'd had to guess which street was the most violent in the area (let alone America) I'd have probably guessed Martin Luther King Avenue or Page Avenue, along the same east/west stretch as Natural Bridge, more or less centering on Kingshighway Boulevard.
We lived less than a block north of MLK just west of where it stopped being MLK and became St. Charles Rock Road. Tamara worked on Kingshighway just south of Page, which meant that every day she got to work by crossing some of the most dangerous real estate in the country. It seemed like there was a shooting (not necessarily, but sometimes, fatal) along her route at least once a week.
I only recall having a gun pulled on me one time in the area. I came around a blind corner in Jennings (a town just west of the city and a little north of Natural Bridge) in the ice cream truck I was driving and encountered a crowd of young men wearing red bandanas. Presumably they were with the Horseshoe Posse, the local affiliate of the Bloods gang. MLK was supposedly the turf line -- Horseshoe Posse to the north, Boys of Destruction (affiliated with the Crips, but apparently more loosely than the HP/Bloods situation) to the south. Scowls all around, then one of them pulled a pistol. I did the only thing I could think of to do: I kept coming, hit the gas, and scattered them. If the gun got fired, I didn't hear it. Kind of scary. The ice cream truck company had had a driver shot in the head and left for dead not long before and not far from there.
Mostly north St. Louis County and the city didn't feel that dangerous on a day to day basis. But overall I'd say that while I miss some people in the area, I don't miss the area itself.