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How to Prevent Neighborhood Crime

The spray-painted brick building at the end of the street, the burglary that took place last week, or the broken mailboxes hanging by the side of the road, are all examples of neighborhood crime. While the intensity and frequency of neighborhood crime varies from city to city and state to state, no locality is completely spared from some sort of illegal activity. Today, various factors contribute to the crime that plagues a poverty-stricken section of Harlem just as much as the quiet community in Boston. When neighborhoods familiarize themselves with preventive measures associated with local criminal activity, they are able to better take an active role in increasing the level of safety within their niche.

How to Prevent Neighborhood Crime

What is Neighborhood Crime?

Neighborhood crime involves illegal activity that takes place in a specific section of town, such as a block, street, or local community. The varying levels of crime a neighborhood experiences may include both violent and non-violent offenses. Some neighborhoods come across the occasional case of vandalism or theft of property, while other neighborhoods encounter a high rate of homicide or burglary.

The Negative Effects of Neighborhood Crime

While neighborhood crime creates a wealth of negative consequences, one of the main disadvantages associated with a high level of local illegal activity is the lack of safety and overall sense of well being. Personal valuables are often the targets of neighborhood crime, such as expensive cars and trucks that frequently become prime candidates for theft. Neighborhoods with high crime rates usually suffer a devaluing of their property, making it hard to sell houses and relocate in a timely manner.

Neighborhood crime also affects younger generations, as they typically respond in one of two ways – become involved in the same sort of activities that plague their neighborhood or become victims of their own fear and issues of uncertainty. Illegal activity that takes place within a local community also wastes money, as property damage and replacement of stolen items cost owners and the city unnecessary charges.

Contributing Factors

Crime may take place within any neighborhood, but there are numerous factors that contribute to the regularity of local crime. While poverty and high unemployment rates are some of the most common culprits, additional factors and general effects include [1]:

a) Residential Population and Population Density:

The higher the population and population density of a residential area, the more likely neighborhood crime is to occur. Densely populated neighborhoods tend to experience a higher rate of residential burglaries, domestic abuse, and motor vehicle theft.

b) Surrounding Commercial and Educational Institutions:

When a neighborhood is situated close to a highly populated commercial area, college, or university, an overall higher larceny rate is seen. Neighbors tend to come in contact with a higher risk of shoplifting, store robberies, street muggings, bicycle and auto thefts within the vicinity of their homes.

c) Age of Neighbors:

When a neighborhood showcases a higher number of “at risk” members of the community (between the ages of 15 and 24), a higher crime rate is often experienced.

d) Neighborhood Ties:

When neighborhoods are stable and highlight close-knit populations, a lower crime rate is seen over populations that reside in transient sections of town. A stable population is often described as one that is filled with houses or condominiums rather than a neighborhood full of apartments. The closeness of families, who have established bonds over the years or the simple “nosy neighbor” is more likely to deter neighborhood crime than areas that accommodate families situated in temporary or fleeting living conditions.

e) Street Layout:

A neighborhood located close to major streets provides a quick getaway for those committing crimes. Mass transportation outlets make it easier for criminals to complete their illegal activities and then vanish amongst the many fast-moving vehicles on a nearby highway or multiple intersections. Streets with easy access to bridges or multiple avenues are easy targets for neighborhood crime to take place. Residential streets situated away from easy outlets makes it harder for criminals to execute their plans and get away without being detected.

f) Economic Conditions:

The poverty level and unemployment rate of a neighborhood affects the number of burglaries, robberies, and larcenies in a locale.

g) Family Ties:

It is believed that the relationships developed on the home front will affect the amount of crime that takes place within a neighborhood. Youths, who grow up in an environment plagued with tension and inconsistency, face a higher chance of committing a crime [2]. A neighborhood with a high number of single-parent families, divorce rates, and absent parents are often connected to the production of youths that seek familial love and support, attention, and entertainment through criminal activity.

h) Climate:

The general effect of climate on a neighborhood influences the amount of crime that takes place. Overall, warmer climates have been known to produce a higher rate of larceny, auto theft, and juvenile-related activity, while colder climates seem to generate an increase in murder and robberies. In the case of burglary rates, it is the weather that deters this type of crime, as rainy and snowy weather sees fewer incidents.

How to Prevent Neighborhood Crime

When it comes to preventing neighborhood crime, there are plenty of individual and group approaches to consider. While it is impossible to sustain a crime-free neighborhood, a variety of options allow members of the community to “do their part” in creating a safe environment for themselves, their loved ones, and those who live within their neighborhood. A few crime prevention recommendations include:

a) Home Burglary Prevention Do’s:

Homeowners may follow a variety of burglary prevention measures to increase the safety of their residence. For starters, noise and lights are some of the best ways to ward off criminals. When leaving the house, lights left on in various rooms give the look that someone is still inside, which acts as a deterrent to criminal activity.

Vacationers also benefit from lights that go on and off through a timing system. Another approach is to leave the radio on an all-talk station that give intruders the impression that there is more than one occupant inside a home. Good, strong locks also help to prevent home burglaries – high-quality, one-inch deadbolt locks are recommended.

b) Home Burglary Prevention Don’ts:

There are many different habits that homeowners form that could place their home in danger of a burglary. For instance, it is important to never leave your outside doors unlocked, even when moving from the front yard to the back. Burglaries are known to occur in such a small amount of time, especially during a quick run to the supermarket or paying a visit to the neighbor living across the street.

Another common practice that many homeowners should cease is hiding a key outside of their home. Extra keys come in handy, but are much safer in the hands of a trusted neighbor or friend. In regards to house and car keys, it is highly suggested to refrain from putting names and addresses on attached tags. If they should ever become lost or fall into the wrong hands, the consequences could become an unnecessary home burglary or theft.

c) Keep Your Eye Out For Strangers:

Keeping your eyes open for unknown individuals in the
neighborhood will help prevent neighborhood crime because criminals are less likely to strike an area or street that seems to have a strong presence of “nosy neighbors,” “concerned citizens,” and alert community members. Neighbors who immediately report suspicious people, cars, or trucks to the police also help prevent neighborhood crime. You never know when your description may help identify a known criminal who has chosen your comfort zone to lurk.

d) Start a Neighborhood Watch Group:

When citizens assemble to devote time and energy towards the prevention of crime in their neighborhood, they have created a crime watch organization. Neighborhood watch groups are not expected to take a physical stance against criminal acts in their neighborhood, but instead, commit to staying alert when unusual activity arises in the community. They also pledge to contact the proper authorities when they have detected something odd. The current system of neighborhood watches in the United States possesses a history that traces back to the late 1960s [3].

e) Install An Ample Amount of Lights:

A neighborhood shrouded in darkness is the perfect target for illegal activity because it makes it easier for criminals to move in and out of a situation without being identified or detected. To increase the lighting in a neighborhood, the installation of lampposts about the street is suggested. Neighbors should also attach motion-detection lights on the front of their house and garage that light up in response to movement. This often discourages the presence of criminals.

f) Mark Valuable Property:

To discourage theft, marking valuable property with identifying numbers (such as a driver’s license number or full name) helps discourage neighborhood theft. In many cases, thieves steal in order to sell back stolen property and distinguishing marks often makes potential items less desirable. Also, marking valuables helps police efficiently return stolen property.

g) Arrange a Citizens’ Patrol:

Depending on the neighborhood, a group of individuals may take turns patrolling the streets at night in order to alert the police to criminal activity or deter illegal acts from taking place [4]. A strong neighborhood presence is a great crime deterrent.

h) Post Neighborhood Watch Signs:

To prevent crime from occurring in the neighborhood, signs posted in the vicinity alerting criminals that his or her actions are being monitored often acts as a persuasive measure leading them to look elsewhere.

i) Home Security Inspections:

To decrease the chances of becoming a victim of burglary, it is wise to undergo a home security inspection, where a trained professional will inspect your locks, doors, windows, exterior lighting, and even landscaping. You will then receive a recommendation on how to improve your home security. Often times, there is a fee for such an inspection, but in some cities – a qualified, trained police officer may provide the service for free.

j) Install Alarms:

Home alarm systems not only deter criminals, but also give homeowners an extra sense of security that their loved ones and belongings are protected on a 24-hour basis.

k) Hire Night Security:

Many crimes take place in the middle of the night, when people are sleeping and darkness conceals the identities of criminals. Enlisting an extra set of eyes for nighttime neighborhood protection is a good idea in communities that are able to pool their resources together to hire night security. A night watchman may patrol the neighborhood in a car or on foot where his or her presence alone helps to deter crime.

j) Build Trusting Relationships With Law Enforcement: In many cases, a neighborhood greatly suffers when a poor relationship exists with their local police department. In order to increase crime prevention measures in a neighborhood, a healthy partnership between law enforcement officers and residents is important [5]. Neighborhood watch programs often become stronger and citizens benefit more from timely police responses to criminal activity in the community when attempts to include and respect law enforcement take place.

Resources

[1] http://www.divorcereform.org/crime.html
[3] http://www.stpete.org/police/crime_prevention-neighborhood_watch.htm
[5]

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