Remember the days when you were just a kid and could roam the neighborhood for hours after school, on the weekends and all during the summer with never a worry or Q&A from your parents upon your return? The days of playing with neighborhood friends, exploring the bordering woods and riding your bike for endless miles with only the worry of making sure you were home in time for dinner are now memories of the past. Today, you are a parent and the rulebook has changed. There are different, more cautious sets of rules today and for good reason. With local media pushing more crime and mischief stories than ever, we are now more aware of what is happening in our neighborhoods, and knowing exactly where your kids are and who they are with is imperative. Every neighborhood can be a safe place to live when you get your neighbors involved, but it has to start with you. Take the initiative and follow some of these simple steps to a safer neighborhood.
Start a Neighborhood Watch Program
Get a group of neighbors who are interested in participating in a neighborhood watch program together and make each member responsible for a certain task. Tasks could be as simple as knowing where neighbor’s cars are parked, what time kids walk to the school bus in the mornings and afternoons, or having neighbors who stay home during the day look out for suspicious activity. Have monthly meetings to make sure your neighbors know their tasks, make them aware of changes, and report abnormal activity that could be watched more closely.
Make your watch group credible by contacting the sheriff’s office first, as many communities have Watch Program guidelines. The sheriff’s office can provide crime information for your area and help train individuals involved in the group. Proper training on neighborhood watch practices can help make sure proper steps are taken in the event of an incident or accident.
Know Your Neighbors
Remember when everyone in the neighborhood seemed to be friends with your parents? While it may not be that simple anymore, knowing your neighbors’ names, having small chats with them about the neighborhood, or even becoming friends is helpful in gaining trust. Get to know your neighbors’ children as well. It is more than likely that children in your neighborhood close in age will hang out together. Let your trusted neighbors know if you are going out of town, so they can monitor your home for any unwanted activity while you are away. These neighbors’ homes can also be a safe haven for your children in the case of emergency.
If your kids often play in the street in front of your house (if you have a lower traffic neighborhood) or in your driveway, make sure drivers are aware that your children may be playing in the immediate area by putting up brightly colored “Children Playing” signs. This will warn drivers to be cautious and slow down and also serve as a marker for your children on how far out they are allowed to play. Through the neighborhood watch, you can also make it known that speeding through the neighborhood is unacceptable and dangerous.
In an event that an accident does happen in the neighborhood, make sure your children are aware of emergency numbers. Besides 911, your child should know the cell phone numbers of both parents and of trusted neighbors who may be able to help in an emergency.