In a society where we refer to our homes as our castles, it makes sense that we also want to feel safe and secure in our residences. But as we spend more time inside looking at screens and less time outside making connections with neighbors, it also makes sense that many homeowners today feel less safe and secure than they did a few decades ago.
So what can you do to help assuage your fears and actually make your community safer in the bargain? Plenty! Establishing yourself as a community and working together with your neighbors is one of the best ways to increase feelings of safety while actually reducing crime in your area. Here's how to get started.
Form a Facebook Group
Let's face it: We are all on Facebook a lot more than is probably healthy for us. But this can be turned to your advantage if you leverage it as an asset. Form a community safety Facebook group that is geared toward your specific community. There is more than likely already a general community Facebook group; join that one, too, and ask the moderators if it's okay to advertise your safety-focused group there.
The great thing about Nextdoor, the neighborhood-focused social network, is that Nextdoor does the hard work of verifying that the people in your neighborhood group actually do live in your neighborhood (no lurkers!). Using Nextdoor can be another excellent way to figure out which of your neighbors are interested in helping you increase community safety, and to warn your neighbors of any thefts or other safety risks in the area. If you do use Nextdoor as a warning method, make sure you're providing only factual information and not conjecture or speculation.
Create Clean-Up Groups
Some safety issues emerge because city and county departments might be strapped for cash or short several employees, and things that ought to get done as a result just ... aren't. Maybe a tree fell across a popular trail and hasn't yet been cleared, or maybe there are local public-access staircases that are covered with slippery leaves or other debris. If there's a safety issue that you can easily and professionally tackle with a group of people, organize one!
Start a Neighborhood Watch
Do you know all your neighbors? Are you familiar with the cars they drive, their regular visitors, and any special guests who pop in from time to time? If your block or neighborhood doesn't already have a neighborhood watch program, consider starting one. The first step is to find neighbors who are interested in participating. Once you have a group of people willing to put in the time, call up your local law enforcement bureau and tell them what you're doing. Many local law enforcement offices will be willing to send a police officer or two to your neighborhood watch meetings, which can be an invaluable resource for helping you learn how to spot and safely report any suspicious activity.
Secure Your Own Space
There's only so much that neighbors can do to help you keep your home safe. Ultimately, the responsibility to secure your property lies with you, so make sure you spend some time looking at your own home's vulnerabilities and decide how to fix them.
Host Regular Meetings or Touch-Base Sessions
Meetings and touch-base sessions are the glue that holds any community group together, and this rings true for safety advocates, too. The people involved in your community safety efforts will want opportunities to talk to each other, share ideas, brainstorm ideas, or even just to get to know each other.
Share Tips for Safer Landscaping
You might not think of your landscaping as a safety hazard, but think again: Dead or dying trees or carpets of dry pine needles can be a real fire hazard, and if your landscaping allows someone to creep up to your front door unseen by anyone else, that can be a problem, too. And that's not all. There could be an insect or vermin infestation that presents a safety hazard (wasps' nests, anybody?).
Coordinate Community Events to Reclaim Spaces
Vacant lots or abandoned parks are nobody's problem and everybody's problem all at once. There might not be a lot you can do about private property, but if there are any public areas that have fallen into disuse or disrepair, then maybe those would be a good project for your community safety group to tackle. Just cleaning up the trash and removing dead plants and shrubs from an area can eliminate or reduce new refuse and discourage people from dumping hazardous materials there.
Teach Social Media Safety
Even though billions of people are on social media, it's still a new world for many of us. As a result, people often post updates or photos on social media that are an actual safety risk. One obvious example is announcing your vacation plans on social media or posting photos of your trip while you're still away.
Give Neighborhood Tours for Kids
We don't let kids run around outside as much as we used to, but it's nonetheless a really good idea to make sure the children in your neighborhood know how to navigate it. One way to encourage kids to learn more about their neighborhood is to host a kid-friendly tour that parents can join, too.
Making the neighborhood safer isn't just one person's job, it's everybody's. By joining forces with your neighbors and working with local law enforcement, you'll be improving safety in your area by leaps and bounds.