A vibrant community with people walking the streets, businesses that have bright windows facing the avenue and patrons on patios is a community that deters crime.
This week, more than 30 Avenue Top 40 Under 40 alumni, and community and city leaders gathered at Jack’s Grill to discuss Avenue’s 2012 Big Idea theme, “Making Edmonton safer.”
My table included Edmonton Police Commission Vice-Chair Shami Sandhu and Coun. Kerry Diotte, and one of the topics of discussion was how getting more people onto the city’s sidewalks can help reduce crime.
It’s called “crime prevention by environmental design,” said Sandhu. By having a neighbourhood where the windows aren’t broken or covered up by dark curtains or, in the case of business, decals, people feel safer and are more likely to take to the streets. And, if restaurants have patios, more people will be on the street. And, when you have a lot of good neighbours on the sidewalks, crime is reduced. And, likewise, a community with unkempt lawns, broken windows and derelict buildings is one that makes people feel unsafe — and welcomes a criminal element.
So, as Diotte pointed out, an initiative by the city to clear the red tape that exists for restaurant owners to open patios will make for more welcoming, walkable neighbourhoods. He is working with fellow councilors Don Iveson and Ben Henderson to try and reduce the bureaucracy when it comes to restaurants applying for patio permits.
Emmy Stuebing, who sits on the board of Community Response to Urban Disorder (CRUD), has seen the Alberta Avenue area transformed not through an iron-fist approach, but by residents simply taking back their community by being neighbourly. A simple initiative like a dog-walking group gets people out and about, and with each local resident that spends more time outside in the community, there’s another deterrent to crime.
Because, as Sandhu said, 85 per cent of crime happens behind closed doors. Criminals like dark alleys or streets with few windows, lights or night life. They don’t want to be seen.
So, patios, pedestrians and a sense of community don’t just make for friendlier neighbourhoods, they make for safer neighbourhoods.
For more from our discussions with our Top 40 Under 40, keep checking the Big Idea blog and our October 2012 issue.