Years ago, our neighborhood was our sanctuary and our neighbors were our support system. Kids treated the block as their playground, and parents had peace of mind knowing they were safe. Times have changed, but families still desire one thing: to live somewhere safe.
Dare to Dream
What do you envision your neighborhood as? A greener, cleaner oasis where kids can freely play or a lively community where small businesses thrive? Whatever your goal, work toward reaching it, no matter how far you'll have to go. Get others involved to build momentum and provide inspiration. Change starts at the local level— others may be willing to help but are just waiting for someone to take charge. Acknowledging that work needs to be done is the first step in making your neighborhood safer for kids.
Slow Down & Take a Walk
We rush to work, rush home, rush to the store and don't stop rushing long enough to enjoy what we already have. Slow down and try to see your neighborhood as you would if you were there for the first time. Appreciate the good. Note what could be improved. Get to know your neighbors and keep an eye out for each other. Take an evening walk around the block once a week to increase your chances of meeting your neighbors. You'll get to know their habits, and what (and who) is normal in your neighborhood and what's not.
This is also a good time to have your children show you their local hang out spots, routes to school/park/store, and any houses they are weary of (not that that proves anything, but we’ve all seen Tom Hanks in “The Burbs”). As you walk the neighborhood together, reinforce your family rules and provide your supportive feedback on what your child shares. This is your opportunity to continue the ongoing conversation about your child’s safety.
Instigate a Neighborhood Watch
One of the oldest and most effective crime prevention programs in the country, the Neighborhood Watch program sponsored by the National Sheriffs' Association, helps communities get organized in order to reduce opportunities for crimes. That can range from investing in security systems to installing more street lamps. According to SecurityCompanies.com, many monitoring packages include sensors used to detect fire, freezing, flood and carbon monoxide leaks, among criminal break-ins or attacks. Talk to your police department about starting a Neighborhood Watch program on your street. Pass out fliers and host an event at your home to bring awareness and talk about ideas.
For a successful Neighborhood Watch program, the National Crime Prevention Council suggests that residents:
- Ask people who seldom leave their homes to be window watchers
- Sponsor a clean-up day to remedy problems that contribute to crime, such as abandoned cars or overgrown vacant lots
- Share facts from police reports about crime in your neighborhood in a newsletter or at a monthly meeting
- Work with local businesses to create jobs for youth, clean up littered streets and repair rundown storefronts
Parents are responsible for keeping their children safe, though neighbors can contribute. The NCPC suggests that parents:
- Know where their children are
- Get to know the neighborhood kids and their kids' friends
- Help children memorize important numbers
- Choose a safe house where children can go if they are in trouble
- Set limits about safe and unsafe parts of town
Do what you can to beautify your neighborhood. Pick up trash, offer to mow your neighbor's lawn or clean the brush off an empty lot to help improve the appearance of your neighborhood. Plant flower beds or hang flower baskets from lamp posts to brighten the area. Colorful flowers can indicate a visible positive change and bring hope and motivation to others. They give the message that someone must be looking after the place and it is no longer the unsafe, unloved, add-your-own-adjective place it used to be.
Did you know CQI staff is available to make presentations in the Silicon Valley (CA)? Our subject matter experts will present to schools, parent groups, companies, civic and non-profit groups, profession and faith-based organizations about Online and Personal Safety. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “PRESENTATION"
By Anthony Gonzalez for Child Quest International