When safety and security meet real life

“Whether we are Safe and Secure in our neighborhood is largely within our domain.” (p.2, The Abundant Community, by John McKnight and Peter Block, authors’ italic)

That is the second of seven “Elements of Satisfaction” listed by John and Peter. So, is it true?

Someone dear to me has had an experience in the past few days that has struck fear in her heart. She lives in an urban setting and walks about four blocks to work. Recently, a man began to seek out encounters with her along the streets. He is possibly homeless and possibly mentally impaired.

Thursday, he followed her home and gained entrance to her “secure” apartment building when another resident let him in–a surveillance camera confirmed the means of entry. I will not give all of the details about what happened, but the man gained entrance the next day as well. This young lady has been unhurt to this point, but the intruder has engaged in some gross and threatening behavior.

The police have investigated, sort of, but said they can’t do anything unless the man touches the woman. She is frightened and angry, and all she can seemingly do is wait to be attacked physically. Her home is no longer safe and secure; it is, in some sense, no longer home.

So back to McKnight and Block. The authors say: “Many studies show that there are two major determinants of our local safety. One is how many neighbors we know by name. The other is how often we are present and associated in public–outside our houses. Police activity is a minor protection compared with these two community actions. This is why most informed police leaders advocate for block watch and community policing. They know their limits and call on citizens to become connected.”

Well, the police in the situation mentioned above have confirmed a portion of this quote. They offer “minor protection.”

Regarding connection with neighbors, this young woman does know a few people by name–she’s friendly and gregarious. But obviously there is a lot of disconnection among residents of the apartment complex because twice residents have allowed this stranger to gain entrance because he or she obviously thought the stranger was a resident, as well.

McKnight and Block’s call to connection takes on new urgency in this one particular situation. Lives and well-being are at stake. Community and neighborliness can seem rather quaint when talked about in a book. It becomes very real, alive, uplifting and dangerous in the real world.

While our safety and security are “largely within our domain,” they are not completely. I think the authors understand this, and thus the “largely” becomes a very important word.

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