The perception of safety is as important as statistics. That's what draws us out from behind locked doors and window bars; gives us license to walk our dogs, take our children to the park and trust our subways on a night out.
But it's the stats, city officials say, that promote civic pride and pay financial dividends through increased investment and tourism hikes.Sometime this month, police agencies across the United States will close the books on their 2011 crime stats. In most cases, these agencies will likely see less crime than they have in years past. In a few cases an agency might see an increase either in a specific category or in a few categories.
But while lower Uniform Crime Report numbers may be a win for police administrators, that doesn't automatically translate to a win for the community if they don't feel safe living, working and playing in their neighborhoods.
One thing I have noticed is that it is often little things that improve people's perception of their community and reduce their fear of crime. Things like tackling graffiti, code enforcement issues, aggressive panhandlers or nuisance abatement can play a role in reducing fear.
The US Department of Justice's Community Oriented Policing Services Office has a publication Reducing Fear of Crime: Strategies for Police that has this salient point in it:
People will not become less fearful unless they know that the sources of their fear have been addressed. Fear is based on perception, so police intent on reducing fear have to follow through and make sure that the public sees, hears about, or otherwise recognizes when problems have been fixed, conditions improved, etc.It's very important that police agencies are adept at communicating with the communities they serve. One way to communicate with an end towards fear reduction is through the use of social media. Social media allows a department to quickly communicate when community problems have been addressed and in a very public way.
If a citizen communicates a concern to a law enforcement agency through social media, and the agency responds positively to that concern, not only does the citizen originally bringing up the concern get the response but every other person on that social media outlet gets to see that the agency is responsive to the community's concerns. This is a very good thing.
What are you doing to reduce the fear of crime in your community? How are you integrating social media in your fear reduction strategy?