Saturday, May 7, 2011

Safety and Security

If I continue to quote from good books I may have to rename my blog, "What's in Keith's Book-bag?" At any given time I often have multiple books on the go and so it is not surprising that I want to introduce you to another fascinating book: The Abundant Community: Awakening the Power of Families and Neighborhoods.

The book is a community development book and lays out a great plan for how we can get our cities and neighbourhoods back on track with community. Chapter one has some great ideas about safety and security.
As Jane Jacobs, author, activist, and icon of the importance of a vital neighborhood, wrote years ago, a safe street is produced by eyes on the street. It is produced by people walking around, sitting outside, knowing neighbors, and being part of a social fabric. No number of gates or professional security people on patrol can make us safe. They can increase arrests, but basically safety is in the hands of citizens. Citizens outside the house, interacting with others, being familiar with the comings and goings of the neighbors. . . .

This is an interesting paradox. We pay police to make us safe, and then they spend some of our money to send us police officers who tell us: that the strength of our own community ties is essential for our safety! There is a name for it: community policing. This police message is confirmed by all kinds of social science research. One of the best is a Chicago study by Robert Sampson and colleagues that found that two factors often predicted whether a neighborhood was crime prone:

Is there mutual trust and altruism among neighbors?
Are neighbors willing to intervene when children misbehave?

Of course, this trust and community responsibility can develop only when neighbors know and are committed to each other. So, the suburbanites whose local relationships are limited to a cheery hello to the neighbor, and the urbanites whose fear keeps them from even saying hello, are all increasing their chance to be a victim.
I passed these words on to my friends at my local Block Watch office. This is exactly what they have been telling us.

1 comment:

  1. You so get it Keith! Block Watch is community policing, police sanctioned/based program that gives people a reputable door opener to get to know their neighbours (without being invasive, of course). After that, it's up to a neighbourhood's level of interest and the leaders' creativity in developing the connections between households to create a genuine community where people want to watch out for each other, develop friendships and create a safer space. Through Block Watch, Vancouver has many close communities that, inevitably, people find hard to move away from.

    Thank you for sharing this information. It's so true, Keith.

    Leah Kelsey, VPD Block Watch

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