Building safer, more inclusive neighbourhoods

I have long maintained that the path to a safe and inclusive community begins in each neighbourhood

Steve Christie

I have long maintained that the path to a safe and inclusive community begins in each neighbourhood, and that every individual, if given the opportunity, can make a positive contribution towards the building of a better society.

This message was also brought to the Leadership Prayer Breakfast, which was sponsored by the Lacombe and Area Ministerial Association, and held on Feb. 19th at the Lacombe Memorial Centre.

Howard Lawrence, an ordained minister and neighborhood consultant leading the Abundant Communities Initiative in Edmonton was the guest speaker at the event.

He coined the phrase, ‘Gluing a Place Together, One Neighbour at a Time’ in his Oct. 15th, 2013 article on the Abundant Community web site (www.abundantcommunity.com).

Howard’s message to those in attendance was simple: be present in your neighbourhood and be attentive to your neighbours.

I agree wholeheartedly with Howard. It is becoming less common to see neighbours chatting on their front lawns while keeping a watchful eye on children and on the goings-on in their community.

These days, people are very busy with work and other commitments, and generally do not have the time to get to know their neighbours. As a consequence, we have quiet, detached and aloof communities that are at an increased risk for crimes such as vandalism and theft.

Crime is a negative social condition that affects all of us, and we as a community can mitigate these harmful effects by coming together in our neighbourhoods, getting to know each other and having an awareness of each other’s lives.

It has been my experience that neighbours tend to look out for each other, especially when they know one another.

Active participation of neighbourhood residents is a crucial element in community safety. Knowing your neighbourhood includes being able to see what’s going on with your neighbour’s property, noticing when something is wrong and reporting a problem to the police. A strong neighbourhood is safe, supportive and creates a sense of belonging and security for its residents.

Being present and attentive is as easy as clearing a neighbour’s sidewalk or driveway; keeping a watchful eye on children playing outside; mowing a vacationing neighbour’s lawn; picking up flyers and newspapers or watering a neighbour’s plants.

By recognizing and meeting the needs of our neighbours, and by reciprocating in kind, we can help build relationships and a sense of community.

June is Block Party month in Lacombe and you can enter for a chance to win a block party for your neighbourhood in May. Block Parties are a great way to get to know your neighbours, and with spring just around the corner, now is a great time to start planning your own neighbourhood party.

The City’s Community Services department has put together a downloadable Block Party planning kit, which is available at www.lacombe.ca.

Planning for a block party can begin with one or two neighbours initiating a conversation with other residents in their neighbourhood.

Use this as an opportunity to find out what the common vision is for the neighbourhood. What activities might people be interested in participating in with their neighbours?

Another initiative that is just being established in Lacombe is Citizens on Patrol. This program, much like a neighbourhood watch program, is another way for us to get to know and to look out for each other. A community is less attractive to criminals if there are people present, engaging with one another and being attentive to the activities in their neighbourhood.

A local Facebook page – Lacombe Citizens on Patrol: Taking Back Lacombe – was initiated in response to concerns around criminal activity in our City. The group’s members pledge to know their neighbours better, in order to become part of the solution in the fight against criminality.

It is important to recognize each of us has something to contribute and we all need to be involved in some capacity to make a positive and lasting difference in our neighbourhoods.

Steve Christie is the mayor of Lacombe.

 

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