Neighborhoods play an important role in home safety and personal happiness. If you live in a safe community, you’re more likely to enjoy spending time outside gardening or watching your kids play. If your neighborhood is unsafe, you’re likely to keep your doors and windows shut at all times. But it’s not always easy to know if your neighborhood is safe or dangerous.
Whether you’re moving to a new neighborhood or have lived in the same area for years, here are five signs that your neighborhood might be more dangerous than it seems.
High Crime Rate Statistics
When you’re looking into a potential neighborhood, look at the crime statistics. According to the FBI’s annual crime report, there were 1,197,704 violent crimes across the country in 2015. 1 Although crimes are often concentrated in big cities, it doesn’t mean your neighborhood is necessarily safe even if it’s in a small town. As you’re researching online, check out sites like MyLocalCrime.com and CrimeReports.com to get a better idea of your area.
Constant Police Presence
Police officers respond to crimes. So it can be a bad sign if there’s high police activity in your neighborhood. That’s not to say that seeing a cop car pass through your block once in a while is something to worry about—it’s part of a police officer’s job to patrol different areas. But if you notice cops responding to calls multiple times a day, it might be time to move or take extra safety precautions.
Abandoned Houses and Storefronts
One of the most obvious signs of a declining neighborhood is vacant houses and storefronts. 2 If you see a lot of buildings and homes in your area that have been empty for many months to a year, it might be a sign that your neighborhood is dangerous. According to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, “research links foreclosed, vacant, and abandoned properties with reduced property values, increased crime, [and] increased risk to public health and welfare.” 3 You can avoid moving to a declining neighborhood by looking at how many vacant buildings and homes are in the area.
A lack of grocery stores and restaurants could be a sign of a dangerous neighborhood. According to the American Nutrition Association, “these parts of the country, vapid of fresh fruit, vegetables, and other healthful whole foods, usually found in impoverished areas.” 4 The articles goes on to mention that instead of healthy food, these types of neighborhoods are filled with fast food places and quickie marts. So, if you find yourself scouting the neighborhood for a grocery store and instead seeing a row of fast food places, you might want to reconsider the location.
Neighborhoods with a large population of renters can be associated with higher crime rates. According to a study conducted by the University of Virginia, “rental properties often have more criminal activity than owner-occupied dwellings.” 5 This doesn’t mean that every renter is a bad person; we’ve all likely rented a home at one point or another. It’s just something to keep in mind. The more people change in a neighborhood, the more likely it might be that some of them are up to no good.
5 Signs Your Neighborhood Is Safe
All right, now that you know what to avoid when it comes to finding the right neighborhood for you and your family, check out our list of the five common signs your neighborhood is safe.
Neighborhoods that host community events like block parties and farmers’ markets tend to be closer. These types of events are a great way to bring families together and encourage people who live in the same area to get to know each other better. It’s also a great way to see what people in the neighborhood are up to: some might be selling flowers or produce from their garden, while others might be into wood carving or furniture restoration. This is a great way to see what the people around you are all about.
Thriving Local Businesses
Businesses prosper when people shop. If you notice a variety of shops around your neighborhood, like family-friendly restaurants, bookstores, and coffee shops, it could be a good sign. When people are financially secure, they’re more likely to spend money beyond the necessities and splurge from time to time on going out. It’s worth noticing the types of businesses in your area and the people who frequent them.
Kids Playing Outside
There’s comfort in the sound of kids playing. And it’s also a good sign that you’re in a good neighborhood. Parents are more willing to let their kids play outdoors if they feel the area is safe from potential danger. When you’re scoping out the area, look around for kids biking down the street, playing ball, and laughing with friends.
Neighborhood Watch Groups
Safe neighborhoods are a sign that people care about their community and are interested in keeping it crime-free. One good way to gauge the area’s safety is with neighborhood watch groups. These are usually groups of people in the neighborhood or community who take it upon themselves to report suspicious behavior and keep an eye on who’s coming in and out of the area.
Low Crime Rate
Crime rates are often great indicators of neighborhood safety. But it’s not always easy to spot crime. Luckily, there are crime-spotting tools that give you an idea of what’s going on in your area. You can also check out the city’s website for police-community engagement activities, such as courses on how to prevent crime. As an extra safety measure, you can also contact your local police station for specific neighborhood information. And if you’re planning on moving to a new city, check out resources like America’s safest cities to see if your city made the list.
Your quality of life can depend on your neighborhood. If you feel your neighborhood is not as safe as you thought, there are actions you can take, like joining or starting a Neighborhood Watch, to make it safer. If your neighborhood is safe, you can keep it that way by taking part in community programs or starting new initiatives that can benefit your neighborhood and town.
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