Find Safe Neighborhoods
A lot goes into settling on a new place to live. Important considerations include a new location's cost of living, the quality of local schools, the area's potential for economic growth, convenience to shopping, quality and availability of public services, and distance to work.
The safety of a prospective new neighborhood should be another prime consideration. Finding a neighborhood with a relatively low crime rate should be at or near the top of a family's home security checklist when choosing a new place to live.
Many resources are available to help determine the prevalence of crime in cities and neighborhoods and facilitate an informed decision on where to live.
Online resources to help you find a safe neighborhood
The nation's premiere authority on crime, the FBI, compiles crime statistics from across the U.S. in the annual Uniform Crime Report. The report includes statistics on a wide range of violent and nonviolent crimes. These statistics, which are broken down by city, however, are not necessarily helpful in determining the relative safety of one neighborhood over another within a city.
In the Uniform Crime Report, the FBI offers some encouraging news:
- Property crimes declined 2.7% in 2010 from the 2009 estimate. And over the past five years, the numbers dropped 9.3%.
- Violent crimes decreased 6% from the 2009 estimate, 13.2% below 2006 and 13.4% below the 2001 violent crime level.
Nevertheless, crime continues to be a problem – more so in some locations than others. Some tools help families locate neighborhood-specific crime statistics. One such tool is the website SpotCrime.com. When a user types in an address, the mapping feature of the website shows the locations of crimes within a specific radius of the address.
- EveryBlock.com, offers a wide range of information about neighborhoods, including results of restaurant inspections and real estate listings, as well as crime statistics drawn from police precinct reports. However, EveryBlock covers only the nation's largest cities, such as New York City, Chicago and Los Angeles.
- NeighborhoodScout.com rates neighborhoods in terms of relative safety by using a color-coded rating system.
- RelocationEssentials.com, unlike the other tools, does not feature maps, but does report crime statistics by city and ZIP code.
- Focusing specifically on sex-related crimes, the U.S. Department of Justice's National Sex Offender Public Website, in conjunction with sex offender registries of all 50 states, indicates where convicted sex offenders live. Upon parole or release from prison, all convicted sex offenders are required to register their place of residence.
But even if you choose to live in a neighborhood with a low crime rate, you can never be completely immune to crime. For this reason, you need to develop a home security checklist to reduce your risk of becoming a crime victim.
SafetyResource.org, a resource of the Graduate Educational Information Service (GEIS), offers valuable advice to help families develop and implement an effective home security checklist and plan. It recommends the following home security steps:
- Work with neighbors to organize a neighborhood watch. Through a neighborhood watch program neighbors get to know one another, become familiar with each other's routines and alert the authorities when they see suspicious activity – anything out of the ordinary.
- Establish citizen patrols, a step up from a neighborhood watch, in which neighbors volunteer to walk or drive around the neighborhood in small groups. Safetyresource.org recommends that citizen patrols be established in cooperation with police.
- On a more personal level on the home security checklist, it is imperative to make certain that your home has strong doors and door frames and deadbolt locks to help protect your family and help prevent break-ins. In addition, parents need to educate their children to never open the door to anyone unless they are certain who they are. To support this, peepholes should be installed in all doors that open to the outside.
- Windows also need to have locks and strong frames to help prevent break-ins.
- Exterior security lighting should be installed to help deter criminals. Motion activated lights are highly effective in discouraging criminals.
- A good home security system is another important home investment to help protect your family and property.