Design Your Neighborhood Against Crime

September 4, 2009 at 8:00 am Leave a comment

Lately, there has been a widespread trend toward use of web 2.0 tools and social media in law enforcement. Although these tools are great for communication and maintaining connections between citizens and law enforcement, they—in and of themselves—will not decrease crime significantly. Sure, web 2.0 crime mapping can provide an advantage to neighborhood watch groups, but public-facing crime mapping will not necessarily reduce crime if it is not coupled with a variety of other personal crime-prevention strategies.

What we’re talking about is not simply looking at the results of crime, through crime mapping, statistics, and sharing crime tips through Facebook, but using that information to target physical aspects of the community that encourage crime. For neighborhood watch groups this means not just watching out for crime, but actively paying attention to physical aspects of your community that may increase chances for crime.

Physical Aspects of Your Neighborhood

Look around your community. How many neighbors have their porch light on at night? How many lawns look unkempt? How many houses have bushes under their windows? How many houses have large windows facing the street? How many houses have fences? The answers to these questions may help you root out some aspects that make your neighborhood more attractive to criminals.

Strategies

Overall street appearance, like nicely manicured lawns, attractive bushes, and accent lighting, sends a message to criminals that the homeowners care about their property and keep an eye on it—and might have security systems. Unkempt lawns and neglected trees and shrubs, are a sign that maybe other aspects of the home are untended too, like door and window locks.

Street and porch lighting deter criminals who generally don’t want to be in the spotlight. And, coupled with street-facing windows, make criminals feel uncomfortable, like they are being watched and could easily be identified.

At first, you would think that high fences would keep criminals out, but that is not always true. Waist-high fences or shrubs lining your property actually provide two benefits: they act as a barrier that is awkward to cross, and they give you street visibility. With high fences, you won’t know a criminal is coming until he hops the fence or enters the gate. With a waist-high barrier, you can them coming from a mile away.

Finally, there is a very simple way to block access to your windows, plant thorny bushes under them. I know it sounds kind of silly, but faced with the prospect of pushing his way through a thorn bush to get to your bedroom window, most criminals will pass your windows up for easier targets.

Solutions

These are all aspects of your property and neighborhood that you can control. Talk to your neighbors about implementing strategies to deter criminals before they even get to your house. In addition, you can talk to your city council about street-lighting issues as well as public signage (like neighborhood watch signs) and other physical aspects of your neighborhood that are city property.

Search your neighborhood crime map at CrimeReports.com

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