This Neighborhood is Unsafe

I had the unfortunate privilege last night of being within close earshot of an argument between my hosts and their daughter, who is basically my age at 23. She had been out with friends all day, having fun on a lake, but she said she would be back “sometime in the late evening” and had actually returned around midnight. They had gotten quite worried, almost to the extent of calling her friends’ parents. Afterwards, I chatted with the daughter and her mother (the less riled-up parent) about the whole situation. I felt that while more communication would have been good, their reaction was a little overprotective and extreme.

But then, they reminded me of a crucial difference between where I grew up and here: their neighborhood is right on the border of one of the highest-crime cities in the country, whereas the most my town usually has to deal with is drunk college students burning cars after sporting events.

Violent crime has vast, pernicious effects on everyday life. I became aware of some of these effects on poor, working-class neighborhoods through the wonderful documentary series Unnatural Causes. But it hadn’t occurred to me before last night that it’s a big problem in middle-class places too. How do we combat the root sources of crime? I haven’t studied this very much. But I think that livable and nurturing communities can certainly help, and I’m excited to learn about how planning can contribute to the solution.

Do you have any stories of innovative changes that successfully addressed the root causes of crime and led to a decrease in the topline crime statistics? I would love to hear them.

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