The State Department needs to issue travel warnings for Baltimore and Chicago

It’s frequently been said that President Trump is a bit of a disrupter of normal political and governmental processes (and that’s from people trying to be nice to him). It follows that some of his Cabinet-level appointees might fall into the same general category. With that in mind, I’ve got a suggestion for Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Start issuing travel advisories for dangerous places where people shouldn’t travel, even if they are inside the United States.

And let’s start with Chicago and Baltimore. Not the entirety of both cities, of course. There are some very nice tourist destinations in each. But there are some neighborhoods where it’s simply not safe to go without some form of protection. And since you’re not allowed to carry your own defensive firearms when visiting those areas, people should be aware.

Sure, a suggestion like this is going to offend some people, but let’s think about it for a moment. If you go to the State Department website where they list all of the travel advisories, they break them down into four categories. Level 1 is described as “Use Normal Caution” and it covers countries ranging from Andorra to New Zealand. Level 2 urges travelers to “Exercise Increased Caution.” That includes some rather sketchy places like Columbia, Uganda, and Ecuador. But it also includes Italy, Germany and the Netherlands.

By the time we reach Level 3 (Reconsider Travel) we’re into some definitely risky turf. There are 16 countries on this list and it includes Haiti, Pakistan, Lebanon, Honduras, and Chad. Finally, we reach Level 4 which flatly states “Do Not Travel.” Thirteen nations have earned this “honor.” You can probably guess most of them, like North Korea, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Syria, and Venezuela. If you go there without a military escort you’re probably just begging to be killed or taken away to prison.

So if we were going to do tourists the favor of warning them away from the rougher neighborhoods in Chicago and Baltimore, what category would they fall into? While this study from Chicago Magazine dates back seven years, they took a look at this precise question. Kabul Province in Afghanistan (a Level 4 region) with a population of 3.5 million actually had a lower murder rate for civilians than Chicago. And Baltimore, looked at on a per capita basis, has a murder rate that’s even worse. Should we be creating a new Level 5 to describe these cities?

Yes, this question is at least partly tongue in cheek, but perhaps some sort of prompting from Washington would open people’s eyes and draw more resources and better ideas to these cities. I know that the leadership in both Chicago and Baltimore is aware that they have a serious gang violence problem, and there has been some progress made in recent years. But they’re simply not able to accomplish what’s been done in New York City (for one of the best examples) since the 90s. We should all be asking why and finding out if there isn’t some sort of partnership possible with Washington to change things. And until that happens, the State Department should tell people to stay away from the most affected neighborhoods.

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