Everyone wants a safe neighborhood.
That’s why there are sites like FamilyWatchdog, which lets you monitor the location of registered sex offenders, and CrimeReports, a roundup of local crime stats that can keep you informed of what’s really going on in your area (if your police department participates). But there are plenty of easier, mostly non-tech ways to keep your neighborhood, your neighbors, and you and yours safe.
Know Your Neighbors
Most of your neighborhood safety work should be happening at block parties, at garage sales, during casual walks where you chat with homeowners raking leaves: anytime you meet people who live where you live. Everyone — not just the neighborhood gossip — needs to know who has which kids, who has which dogs, who drives which cars, and basically, who belongs there. Who keeps an empty house during the day? The more you know about your neighbors and their habits — in a non-creeper fashion — the better.
Make Your Neighbors Aware Of Security Measures
A study out of the Alarm Industry Research and Education Foundation found that as the number of security systems in an area increases, the number of residential burglaries decreases. Burglar alarms, they say, “have a positive impact on the immediate neighborhood by decreasing residential burglaries.” So basically, the more of your neighbors have alarms, the better for you — and even the neighbors who choose to go sans alarm. Remember that CCTV, big dogs, and basic alarms are the most effective against burglars.
Keep Your Vacation Dates Off Social Media…
This only lets potential criminals know when you’re going to be out of town — and that you’ll have an empty house, populated only by the occasional housesitter.
…But Let Your Neighbors Know
Make sure someone picks up your mail and packages — nothing attracts a burglar like stacked-up mail. Put your lights on timers, and maybe have a trusted neighbor move your car for you periodically or cut the grass if need be. They will hopefully watch your back, and keep a close eye on your property while you’re gone (alert them to any pet sitters or housesitters coming and going). You’ll do the same for them in turn.
Encourage Better Lighting
Not street lighting, which is effective, but not as effective as simple residential lighting. Everyone should be leaving their porch lights on, back and front, every night, which leaves no dark corners for burglars to hide. Encourage motion-activated flood lights for everyone, which will flick on when someone or something moves within the proximity.
Join — Or Form — A Neighborhood Watch
The Justice Department did a study to figure out whether or not these were effective. They discovered that there was a 16 percent reduction in crime in communities with a neighborhood watch “when compared with control areas.” However, the “results of evaluations are mixed and show that some programs work well while others appear to work less well or not at all.” And overall, “there was insufficient data to justify definitive conclusions about why such programs are associated with positive outcomes.” Areas with high crimes are reluctant to organize and may not trust their neighbors; white-flight areas may have so little crime as to make the effect of a neighborhood watch statistically insignificant. Your best bet? Join a well-organized one, but don’t let it make you paranoid.
You can go high-tech: there are several apps, including NextDoor, which will help you monitor and discover what you (might) need to know about your neighborhood, but getting to know your neighbors is best of all.