The vibrancy of a city’s core creates the fabric of the community. A safe downtown gathering place provides an ambiance that reverberates throughout the city.
Who decides the definition of “safe”?
It’s a subjective word that might have different meaning to different people. I have my own translation and believe that “safe” is achievable.
Let’s start with the word “community.”
A definition provided by Merriam Webster Dictionary states: “an interacting population of various kinds of individuals in a common location.”
My take on that definition provides for a safe gathering spot for a wide, inclusive demographic; a demographic that can include drifters and pan handlers.
My definition of safe does not include aggressive actions which cause residents to think twice about returning to an area.
I know that safe is achievable because I’ve personally experienced it in some of the great large cities of the world.
It doesn’t matter who initiates it; aggression bordering on violence is not acceptable. It can destroy a gathering place over time.
As population density increases, there can be a propensity toward an increase in unacceptable street behaviour. Options to mitigate this can include a greater police presence, reduced tolerance leading to more incarceration and random stop checks and searches.
The reality is that many of the problems that exist on the street stem from addiction and/or mental health issues. These solutions can be costly and are proven to not work well.
There is a solution
In his book Uneasy Peace, sociologist Patrick Sharkey reports on highly data-driven analyses of life in urban neighbourhoods.
He has conducted dozens of large-scale studies and has found that surveillance cameras drop the crime rate almost as much as police presence. Security guards and rent-a-cops have a similar effect.
Community policing or groups that send volunteer patrols out walking in alleys and sidewalks to keep an eye on their neighbourhood, are effective in reducing crime significantly – without as much expense or controversy as police.
That is Dr. Sharkey’s grand conclusion: Having an eye on the street, a conscious and concerned presence, causes the crime rate to go down.
We have a solution – enough discussion . . . let’s act!