Once again wear are marching faster than expected through a new year. So far we have had a great Conference call with the Council, updated our bylaws and are looking forward to a face to face meeting next month. Not bad for the first three months.
Unfortunately we have seen a great deal of crime in the news - school shooting in Florida, bombings in Austin, TX and many local problems with violence and drugs. Crime prevention is intended to help people learn how to be safe from these types of events. Unfortunately, like security, most people don't want to bother with it until it is too late. As a detective with Bellevue Police Department I often worked with victims of crime to help them not again be victims. What I found was that many people thought that if they were once victimized they wouldn't again be. Many I talked to several times before they did anything to remove the problems that made them potential victims.
Many of the things that reduce victimization are things that other people have to do. Sometimes we think that locking people up is the best way to assure that crimes don't happen again. That is certainly true for the particular criminal we lock up. Unfortunately since, according to the Department of Justice's Sourcebook which is printed each year, we're not totally good at knowing how many crimes are committed. The Sourcebook compares the UCR data reported by the police with the National Crime Victimization Survey data. During the time I was working - and even a few years ago - comparing that data indicated that only 40-45% of violent crime and as little as 20% of property crime was ever reported to the police. Like I used to say to my police chief, this makes it' really tough to determine whether an increase in crime is actually an increase in crime or an increase in reporting crime. Especially when a new crime prevention program begins - I would expect to see an increase in crime (reporting) because that is one of things we expect a crime prevention program to do is encourage people to report crime.
Many things happen to support crime - not the least of which is things that encourage people to use drugs. Obviously many of the people who use drugs for a prolonged period of time often can't sustain a job that will support the cost. They then have to resort to other ways of affording the drugs. Crime is often the only way. If we could get a handle on drugs as a nation (or even a community) we could see a downward trend eventually in crime. Taking away the causes of drug abuse is a lot more difficult than many people think. I remember when the DARE program started many people thought it was going to magically wisk away the drug problem with a few week training once during 4th or 5th grade. Unfortunately that couldn't happen. What did happen was that the officers became more real to the kids and some of the kids who were having trouble at home shared it with the officer and often the trouble was dealt with. It also allowed kids to get acquainted with police in a way that changed some of their attitudes regarding police in general.
Unfortunately we live in an instant gratification society that tries to correct long standing complex problems with short term simple solutions. That will never work no matter how much we want it to.
Crime is with us. Is it getting worse? Who knows? Obviously some of the violent crimes we hear about may be. Unfortunately with 24-7 news reporting, we certainly are hearing about it more. When I worked in LA, I stopped watching the news entirely. Why? With the population and especially the extremely gang controlled areas, there are so many people that just from a statistical basis one would assume that there would be 20 minutes of exceedingly violent crime to report. Is that the norm in LA? No. Many places in LA are as safe 24-7 as in any community. What that amount of crime does is creates exceptional fear - especially amongst older people. This has a tendency to fortress them in their homes - which really impairs their quality of life. What we know from Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design is that safe streets are often the result of a very diverse population using the streets 24-7 which limits the ability for the criminal to take over the streets. Older people doing what they are able to do to be social is good for their quality of life as well as good for the quality of life of the community.
Jane Jacobs in her book The Death and Life of Great American Cities (1961, Random House, New York) was curious why in Greenwich Village where she lived there were places where she felt safe 24-7, but within blocks were places she wouldn't feel safe any time during the day or night. She began the concept of Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design, and I think her curiosity explains some of the problems we see in cities. Most people, like Jane, know where the problem areas are and avoid them and are not often victimized. This concept is born our in other later books such as Fixing Broken Windows: Restoring Order and Reducing Crime in Our Communities (George L. Kelling and Catherine M. Coles, 1996, The Free Press, New York) that discusses how New York took back their subway system by finding just what people were afraid of. It turned out they were afraid of Grafitti and Panhandling and when they dealt with that, people became more willing to not allow more insidious crimes to occur.
AARP is in the process of working with Red Lodge, Bozeman and Kalispell to get them AGE Friendly designations (an International Designation). This is very much in line with CPTED focuses because it looks at such things as complete streets, affordable housing, and many other of the things that CPTED encourages communities to practice. Also the Age Friendly designation refers to all ages. It'll be interesting to see what comes of these focuses in three Montana communities.
I also encourage people to take a look at today's blog post on funding available from the Feds to conduct CPTED training. We may look into seeking funding that could be used, at least in the above three communities to provide CPTED training. Stay tuned.
Alex E. Ward, CPP
Board Certified in Security Management (American Society for Industrial Security)
MCPA in conjunction with the Yellowstone County DUI Task Force and Q2 produced these DUI PSA's. They paint a sad picture of DUI in Montana and have been viewed on television as well as on you tube. This is one way we can educate folks as to things they need to know about crime.