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Our role in the safety of our neighborhood & sidewalks

28 Jun. 2011 Posted by Hannah Mich

I have often thought about what makes me feel safer in one area of the city compared to another. What makes us gravitate towards walking on one street or in one neighborhood, but not another one? Interestingly, I read this quote while reading the book "the Death and Life of Great American Cities" by Jane Jacobs

"A city neighborhood can absorb and protect a substantial number of these birds of passage [transient residents], as our neighborhood does. But if and when the neighborhood finally becomes them, they will gradually find the streets less secure, they will be vaguely mystified about it, and if things get bad enough they will drift away to another neighborhood which is mysteriously safer.

"What better way than to be on the look out- or a little nosy."

More and more people do not live in a given neighborhood for more than five or 10 years and then move onto another one. And many who do live in a suburb or neighborhood do not spend most of their time there- they are at work, visiting other relatives, traveling on vacation or going to other local areas for food and entertainment. This lack of investment and interest in the neighborhood directly impacts the safety of it.

Now many people often complain about the "nosy neighbor," but these are often the neighbors who help keep sidewalks and neighborhoods safe because they are always watching. Instead, we like to point the finger at law enforcement not being there when we need them, when we should be asking where were the residents who live there. I think this really points to the fact that we need to take ownership and responsibility for our neighborhoods, instead of blaming it on someone or something else all the time. Granted there may be other contributing factors - but we still need to protect our neighborhood and our home. What better way than to be on the look out- or a little nosy.

I can recall living in our previous neighborhood where a CVS had been built a few blocks away. Most of the people using the CVS walked or drove from other sub-divisions, which just brought more traffic into our neighborhood. Many kids or teenagers would walk by our house and through our neighborhood to purchase food, alcohol or cigarettes. On their way back from the store they would casually drop any unwanted bags or paper. This infuriated me because they had no respect for our neighborhood. So one day a couple of kids were loitering in our neighborhood after going to CVS - one neatly placed an empty glass bottle on the curb. So I went and picked it up and ran up to him and said "I think you forgot something." With a look of surprise, he took it and quickly walked off with his buddy. I felt good about that because I was taking care of the neighborhood to some extent - even though I new he probably would just leave it a few blocks away.

If we took more responsibility for the things that go on in our neighborhood, then they would be safer and we would feel a sense of pride. A safe neighborhood that you have part ownership in and take pride in, is not one I think many would be willing to leave quickly. Although there are circumstances that do require us to move, fleeing a neighborhood because it is unsafe or because you do not know anyone should not be among them.

Moving and living in a new neighborhood is hard. I know from experience. You don't know anyone; everyone has their social life in order already; and you don't have a history with the neighborhood or its inhabitants. People are not always forthcoming when it comes to introducing themselves and making friends takes time and energy far beyond that of just making acquaintances. These are obvious hurdles for new residents in a neighborhood, but they should not stop you from trying to form relationships and getting involved. And for those who have invested a great deal of time and energy into a neighborhood, keep in mind that those new residents may be there long after you are gone - so befriend them if you want to maintain a safe and clean neighborhood.

Image: savit keawtavee /


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