America's streets are in terrible shape. And I'm not talking about potholes, busted curbs or blinky street lights.
No, the problem is that so many of our streets are really mean. This meanness is sweeping the country and spreading to foreign lands.
I made this discovery recently after hearing a TV war correspondent refer to snipers shooting people on "the mean streets of Sarajevo."
It seemed to me that I had read or heard the phrase "mean streets" before.
Using a computer service, I searched for the words "mean streets" in dozens of newspapers.
The search covered only the first five months of this year. But the results were frightening. Here are just a few of the mean streets that were found.
Seattle Post-Intelligencer: "Michael Hurtado grew up on the mean streets of Los Angeles."
Cox News Service: "Purvis Young grew up on the mean streets of Miami's Liberty City."
New York Newsday: "He grew up on the mean streets of Brooklyn."
Knight-Ridder Newspapers: "Affirmative action got this child of a one-time welfare mom off the mean streets of Chicago."
Los Angeles Daily News: "He had learned to fight while growing up defending against bullies on the mean streets of Rochester, N.Y."
San Francisco Examiner: "What Floyd didn't know that night on the mean streets of St. Petersburg . . ."
Knoxville News-Sentinel: "Sheba is a skinny-legged teen, just getting by on the mean streets of New York City."
Reuter News Report: "Experience dictated that Michael Ndurumo would end up destitute on the mean streets of Kenya."
Edmonton Journal: "The slightly built boy wanders the mean streets of Grozny."
Boston Herald: "Four years ago, Hall joined the ABC counseling program to escape the mean streets of Los Angeles."
Kansas City Star: "The mean streets of Cincinnati scared San Francisco 49ers defensive tackle Dana Stubblefield."
Reading (Pa.) Eagle: "On the mean streets of Atlantic City, the boys in the 'hood thought Lou Roe was crazy."
New York Newsday: "A Brooklyn jury acquitted Johnson yesterday of slaying a man in a case which had been called an example of life on the city's mean streets."
New York Newsday: "The Gantz brothers were at it again --
hunkered down in the back of a surveillance van, cruising the mean streets of Manhattan."
Washington Times: "Washington is acquiring an undeserved reputation as a city of mean streets."
Portland Oregonian: "Although 550 taxicab drivers zip around the mean streets of Portland . . ."
Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel: "The South Broward community leader views athletics as a viable way off the mean streets of Liberia."
The Times of London: "A belief in collective wickedness allows Eamon to be a Belfast hard man in the mean streets that are his kingdom."
Christian Science Monitor: "On the mean streets of cities such as New York, Boston and Philadelphia . . ."
Windsor (Ontario) Star: "Right from the start, it was obvious Constable Benton Fraser did not know much about the mean streets of Chicago."
Los Angeles Times: " 'The Pope of Greenwich Village' is a pungent, low-life odyssey through the mean streets around New York's Little Italy."
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: "Tom Murphy, it seems, is always ready with a fresh anecdote about the mean streets of his North Side neighborhood."
San Francisco Chronicle: "There must be an acceptable way for a cop to let off steam after a hard week on the mean streets of Manhattan."
Orlando Sentinel: "Any good cop will tell you that winning back the mean streets is as much about prevention as it is about punishment."
Houston Chronicle: "Sometimes a policeman's toughest challenge is not the city's mean streets."
Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel: "Parents of students at Royal Palm Elementary have organized a Parent Patrol to beat the sometimes mean streets of Lauderhill."
The Times of London: "This first novel, which is set in the mean streets of Philadelphia . . ."
Tulsa World: "Ray Presley returned to Tulsa to help keep young children from being found dead on the mean streets of Tulsa."
Newark Star-Ledger: "We can't work up any compassion for Mike Tyson, despite the mean streets he came from. . . ."
San Diego Union-Tribune: "Five decades after he fought his way off Philadelphia's mean streets . . ."
Phoenix Gazette: "And now, back to the mean streets of Phoenix."
Journalists also found mean streets in New Orleans, Buffalo, Sacramento, Baton Rouge and dozens of other communities.
So the mean-streets alarm has been thoroughly sounded. Now maybe journalism schools can start teaching about the Awful Avenues, the Bad Boulevards, the Putrid Places, the Wicked Ways and the Cursed Courts.