Violent crime seems to be everywhere, and it’s easy to feel helpless. After all, if you’re not a police officer who can address things directly or a politician with the clout to impact budgets, what are you supposed to do? But the truth is, everyone has the ability to make their community a safer, less violent place. Here are ten simple ways you can have a major impact.
1. Get to know your neighbors.
When you know your neighbors well, this is a strong base of knowledge that can help you keep everyone safe. You know that Jericha does shift work and often gets home at 4am, so it’s normal for her garage to open at that time. You know Sylvia’s grandkids stay with her every summer, so seeing three teens around her house in June is expected too. (Less expected: when did they get so tall?)
Unfamiliar faces in Jericha’s backyard or Sylvia’s door slamming in the dark hours of the morning, on the other hand? That’s suspicious. But you wouldn’t know this if you’ve never even stopped by to say hello.
2. Get out and about.
Take your dog for a walk. Go for a stroll around the block. Break out the bicycles or roller skates with the kids. Crime levels plummet on streets with high pedestrian traffic, so take to the sidewalks and make your presence known.
3. Take pride in your neighborhood.
Crime flourishes when it seems like nobody cares. Take care of your own space and property: keep things painted, trimmed, and in good repair. But don’t forget shared spaces as well. Keep litter off the street, and deal with vandalism as soon as it appears.
If you have a disabled neighbor or someone else who struggles with gardening or maintenance, offer to help them out. Show the world that your environment is cared for.
4. Mentor young people.
So often youth turn to crime because they don’t see another future for themselves. Being a mentor can show teens a different path. If there’s a formal mentoring program through your local school, recreation center, or place of worship, consider joining. Or just befriend the young people who hang out on your street.
A mentor doesn’t need to be an expert, just a positive role model. For teens who feel like “nobody understands,” connecting with a helpful adult can be a life-changing (and life-saving) experience.
5. Share information with neighbors who are struggling.
Hopelessness feeds violent crime. Make sure everyone in your neighborhood knows about programs that are available to help, whether that’s food, help with bills, drug and alcohol abuse programs, legal services, or help with schoolwork or job hunting.
6. Keep the area light and bright.
Crime often takes place under cover of darkness. Whenever possible, try to help keep your home and your neighborhood well-lit. If you own your home, install good exterior lighting, both near entrances as well as closer to the street.
If you’re renting, talk with your landlord about how improved lighting can reduce local crime. When street lights break or burn out, make sure you contact the city immediately so that they know what needs to be replaced. Don’t assume they’ll notice (or care) unless a resident brings it to their attention.
7. Give youth something meaningful to do.
No organized sports in your area? Maybe you can help organize a soccer game. Need some work done in your yard? Consider hiring a few kids to help you out. This is especially helpful in the summer months, when some teens get into trouble out of boredom as much as anything else.
8. Develop a relationship with law enforcement.
Concerned about violent crime in your neighborhood? Hold a meeting with neighbors and local law enforcement officers. Talk with them about the specific issues you’re seeing and how you can work together to address them more effectively.
9. Start a neighborhood watch group.
A neighborhood watch is a great way to bring together community members to keep an eye on the neighborhood in a more formal way. In addition to ensuring that everyone is watching for suspicious activity, it can also bring the neighborhood closer together.
10. Share your knowledge anonymously with Torch.
Torch is an app that allows you to share tips anonymously with authorities directly from your smartphone. When local knowledge and professional training combine, you get a better, more safer world. Download Torch today and help keep your community safer.