When it comes to our homes, nothing is more important than feeling safe. We want to know that our kids can ride their bikes, that we can walk the dog at night, that we can go on vacation without wondering what will happen when we’re gone.
Although many believe that high-tech systems and private security firms are the only ways to achieve those goals, there are a number of simple, common-sense approaches to safety that can also be effective. Above all else, a safe community is a community that knows itself well. “Look back to the 1940s and 1950s when neighborhoods were safer places,” says Matt Peskin, executive director of the National Association of Town Watch. “It was because everyone knew their neighbor. People looked out for each other. Theyhung out with the cop that walked their beat.”
Carolyn MacNeil, director of the Boston Police Department’s Neighbor-hoodWatch Unit, agrees. “People aren’t rooted in their neighborhoods the way they were many years ago,” she says. “Often, today, people don’t know their neighbors at all.”
Get to Know “Normal” Activity
That’s not to say people should be spending their days spying on their neighbors. “But you should at least know their first names,” says Sgt. Michael Lawrence, crime prevention officer for the City of Shelton Police Department in Connecticut, and understand a bit about what constitutes “normal” activity at your community association. Lawrence cites an exampleof a person who saw a moving van pull up to their neighbor’s residence, wondering how they hadn’t known they were moving. It turns out they weren’t – someone was stealing the contents of their unit.
“When we have burglaries, it usually turns out to be someone that was spotted in a neighborhood but no one called the police,” says Lawrence. “Youdon’t necessarily have to call 911, just call the direct number. Or if you’re not sure what’s going on but think it’s unusual, at least get a description and a license plate number.”