How to Build Safer Communities

“It could never happen here”

“He seemed like such a nice guy”

These are always the words you hear on the news after a situation  happens.  As the police look into a suspected homicide in Montclair, I want to talk about what it means to be a community.

I look to my  youth and have one fond memory from growing up.  That no matter where I was, someone was looking out for me.  At the time, it seemed like I couldn’t get away.  Anytime I was somewhere, my grandmother heard about it.  So the few times I was somewhere different than where I said I would be, she knew I was lying before I walked in the door.

Also, when I was younger, I remember my grandmother had a board on the wall, with little hooks on it. And every hook had a key to a neighbors house.  They all knew that if they were away, they could call her and she would make sure their mail was taken in, their house was watched over, and they wouldn’t have to worry about anything at home.

Everytime I get nostalgic about what “used to be,” I remember the Baz Luhrmann “Everybody’s Free (to Wear Sunscreen)”.  Life was busy then, and it is now.  But, I feel, like people made time to care just a little more.  I believe, that for a safer community, we need to be comfortable with reaching out to our neighbors.  The National Council Prevention Council published a packet simply named “Good Neighbors Make Safer Communities.”

Everyone would love a safer community, but the way to get there takes work.  Luckily, the work is easy and fun.  With the months left of this summer, lets make a concerted effort to reach out to our neighbors.  Start a Block Association, hold a Block Party or Neighborhood Potluck BBQ.  Say “hi” to your neighbors, offer them a hand when they need it, rally around a cause.  A neighbor who is comfortable sharing a beer with you, is comfortable to call the police when your car alarm goes off because someone’s trying to steal it instead of saying “that’s not my car’s alarm.”  A neighbor who you share gardening tips with will call the police when your estranged ex starts abusing you in the middle of the night. A neighbor who you trust, will watch your house, knowing you will do the same for them.

Let’s make the grass roots move to make our community’s safer, with the simple first step of opening up our arms to our neighbors