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Staying Safe When You Live in a Bad Neighborhood

Written by | Updated January 12, 2016

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There are many reasons people end up living in dangerous neighborhoods — unemployment or new development in other areas can run down a once-thriving community, income might limit housing options, or you could be hoping to benefit from rumored gentrification. Whatever the reason, if you find yourself calling a bad neighborhood home, there are things you can do to stay safe and sane.

Signs Your Neighborhood Is Dangerous

Some signs of a dangerous neighborhood are more obvious than others. Here are some common clues that your neighborhood might not be one of the safest.

  • Sirens: If you hear more sirens than crickets at night, your neighborhood is probably home to ongoing criminal activity.
  • Bars: If there are more bars than restaurants, and if a majority of homes and businesses have bars on the windows, you’re probably living in a rough neighborhood.
  • Trash: Garbage, especially liquor bottles and beer cans, littering sidewalks and yards indicates both an ambivalence about the neighborhood and the existence of dangerous behavior.
  • Illegal Activities: Drug deals, prostitution, and loud domestic fights that happen out in the open are indicative of a dangerous neighborhood.
  • Shots Fired: The sound of shots ringing out should not be something you get used to.
  • Abandoned Buildings: Whether it’s homes or commercial buildings, vacancy is a sign that people can’t afford their mortgages and that businesses aren’t thriving.

How to Stay Safe

It’s not easy to live in a dangerous neighborhood, but you can take steps to increase your safety. Here are four things you should do if you live in a high-risk area.

1. Know Your Neighbors

Getting to know the people that live near you helps you identify allies and troublemakers. Be friendly, introduce yourself, offer to do neighborly things, and use good manners. It also helps to know the patterns of neighbors whose behavior puts you and the neighborhood in danger. If you know the unruly couple across the street always overindulge and get violent after payday, you can be prepared to avoid them.

2. Stay Alert

Try not to walk your neighborhood alone after dark, and avoid distractions like your phone. Make eye contact with the people you pass and walk with confidence. If you see a person or group of people you’ve never seen before, take note. Cross the street if you see trouble coming, and be ready to react if things go bad. Prepare to run if you have to, and be ready to call for help.

3. Get Protection

Whether it’s a dog, a home security system, or pepper spray, it’s worth it to invest in protection for yourself and your home. The double protection of a dog and an alarm system may be your best defense. Simply adding a security sign to your yard can deter criminals, but if you’re truly afraid in your neighborhood, it’s probably better to get the real thing. There are plenty of options available today, so it’s possible to find a system that works for even the tightest budget.

4. Use Common Sense

Keep the lights on when you’re not home and always lock the door. Don’t sleep with windows open and make sure all entrances into your place are locked up tight before turning in. If possible, add a fence to your yard and take down any bushes or trees that potential thieves could hide in. Add a deadbolt to the front door and reinforce sliding windows and doors with steel rods that make it impossible to slide them open.

No matter where you live, you deserve to feel safe in your own home. Get to know the security options available in your area and check out crime prevention resources for your state using our National Safety Directory.

Written by Rebecca Edwards

Rebecca is the lead safety reporter and in-house expert for SafeWise.com. She has been a journalist and blogger for over 25 years, with a focus on home and community safety for the past six. Rebecca spends dozens of hours every month testing and evaluating security products and strategies. Her safety expertise is sought after by publications, broadcast journalists, non-profit organizations, podcasts, and more. You can find her work and contributions in places like TechCrunch, The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, HGTV, MSN, and an ever-growing library of radio and TV clips. Learn more

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