Crime in the suburbs: a phrase that immediately brings to mind stark images.
I see friends mourning the loss of Tim Chipley, a 34-year-old martial artist whose body was found in a Carrollwood pond in 2008.
I see the sign on Brandon's Kings Avenue that memorializes Sgt. Ron Harrison, a 27-year Hillsborough County sheriff's deputy, slain in the line of duty by a madman in 2007.
I see the white T-shirts bearing Sarah Lunde's image that friends and family wore at her 2005 funeral days after police found her strangled body in a Ruskin pond.
I see the surveillance video of the reckless hoodlums who stormed into the Town 'N Country Subway and gunned down manager Danielle Miller in 2004.
I see the WFLA-Ch. 8 television crew, soldiering through a 2001 newscast in which it had to report on the death of its own news director Danielle Cipriani, murdered in her West Shore apartment.
But these images, while burned into my mind, don't define our community. In fact, their indelible impressions stand out because they're atypical of our everyday lives in suburbia.
I recall them with ease because they're aberrations, staining the idyllic images of smiling faces strolling through the neighborhood, laughing kids tossing the football and amateur gardeners weeding and pruning.
Some will examine the volume of statistics contained within this special section, peruse the crime pages every week and wonder if the character of our neighborhoods is slipping into the morass that has befallen lesser communities.
However, the question is not ''Are the suburbs safer than the city?'' I'm not qualified to answer as a suburbanite.
No, the question is ''Are we still safe out here?'' And the answer is yes.
We still live in worthy subdivisions. They're still good places to raise kids, share beers with the folks next door and greet the nice lady walking Biscuit and Ivan.
Oh sure, we have to be vigilant. We still have to lock doors, keep an eye on the kids and bring valuables in the house instead of leaving them in the car.
But those preventive measures should not be new to suburban life. It's what we did 20 years ago, and it's what we do now because intelligence — not the latest crime statistics — tells us not to abandon those crime watch measures Sheriff David Gee promotes.
I guess how far we go in guarding our homes and families can be debated. The super sleuths will do background checks on every resident within a 1-mile radius, chart all the sexual predators who live in their respective ZIP code and keep a loaded gun on the nightstand.
Me? I'm just going to take care of mine and focus on all that makes life out here good. The line between responsibility and anxiety should be clear and distinct.
In the end, I love where I live and feel as safe here as I did in 1988 when I rented my first apartment in Brandon. Naive? No, just confident and unwilling to let fear rob me of my peace of mind.
That's all I'm saying.