8 surprising facts about safe neighborhoods

Iris Price | Improvement Center Columnist | August 17, 2015

You like to think of your home as your castle, the place where you keep safe from the world outside. While you probably don't have a moat to keep out marauders, you do your best to keep out everything from tiny pests to human predators and even the ravages of nature. Protecting yourself and your loved ones from harm tops your list of priorities waking and sleeping. And there are so many ways modern tech helps you.

Today's home security products offer a la carte options such as video surveillance, or a complete security system. Smart home technology that can work with other home automation systems allows you to monitor and/or control your home from anywhere in the world to throw prowlers off the scent -- open and close blinds, turn lights on and off randomly, lock and unlock doors for specific visitors, and see who's at your door. Some home security systems that tie into a smart home LED lighting system flash all the lights red during a home emergency such as a fire or break in. For the less adventurous, just installing motion sensor lights around the house can rattle someone trying to break and enter on a dark side of the house.

Regardless of how you prepare for unexpected dangers such as break-ins, fire, or severe weather events, you still probably choose to live in the safest neighborhood you can find. But did you know some simple, surprising factors can contribute to your home's safety? When you buy or rent your next home, look for these common characteristics of the safest neighborhoods:

  1. Well-maintained homes. Property that has fallen into disrepair, is overgrown and/or abandoned not only looks unsightly but can attract criminal activity to the neighborhood. Your block doesn't have to look like a chorus line of movie homes, but broken windows, cracked pavement, weeds, and tall grass attract crime.
  2. Caring neighbors. Studies suggest that where neighbors take an interest in each others' well-being, neighborhoods experience less criminal activity. Talk to the neighbors before you choose your home. While you may not want nosy neighbors, having a friendly rapport with the people who live near you could literally save your life in an emergency. If you don't see anyone out and about in the neighborhood, neither do criminals who are hoping to go unnoticed.
  3. Green spaces. While some people worry that parks encourage criminal behavior like drug use and gangs, studies suggest the opposite. Parks with open areas and green landscape have been shown to relieve stress associated with aggressive behavior. Community vegetable gardens can serve a similar need to get into nature.
  4. Neighborhood organizations. Neighbors who care about the community can also take responsibility and leadership to encourage positive community activities by forming or joining existing neighborhood organizations or homeowner associations (HOAs). They can also work together with local government and city planners to improve neighborhoods.
  5. Good schools. Families concerned with their children's education also worry about their safety. They tend to settle in an area with a school district that has a good reputation.
  6. Ratio of owner-occupied homes to renters. Studies have shown that homeowners take pride in ownership and take more measures to protect their homes from intruders than do renters, but where renters feel welcome in the community and can play a role in improving or maintaining its safety, they become part of the solution, too. Again, "neighborliness" and inclusion provide the best foundation for safe neighborhoods.
  7. Neighborhood Watch programs. Working in conjunction with law-enforcement, neighbors become extra eyes and ears to deter criminal activity. However, some neighborhoods that post "Neighborhood Watch" signs have the opposite effect and give outsiders or newcomers the impression the neighborhood is unsafe to begin with.
  8. Social engagements. Community activities like cook-outs and block parties or just people out walking or sitting on front porches socializing create an environment that tends to discourage criminals who can't carry out their plans with an audience in attendance.

Photo credit to Kevin Irby

About the Author

Iris Price is a single Baby Boomer whose antidote to a lack of retirement funds was to launch a long-delayed career as a writer. While others her age concoct bucket lists and travel the world, she bought a new-construction home and obsessively creates lists of must-have home improvements and personal realization goals. She specializes in writing about home services and self-motivation.