Do you remember when neighbors knew every child on the block and they called parents if they misbehaved? At that time, neighbors knew how important it was to correct children before destructive behavior got out of control.

As a crime and violence prevention consultant for 36 years, I saw a gradual change as citizens became dependent on the police to control neighborhood issues including loud music, young vandals and bullies on the block. Neighbors no longer knew each other.

In some neighborhoods, disconnected youth spread fear and intimidation as they vandalize property, burglarize homes and become increasingly violent. Youth without direction, intervention and correction formed gangs. Today, in the U.S., there are over 770,000 gang members roaming our streets. For protection, citizens purchased burglar alarms, guard dogs, guns or moved into gated communities.

When “Neighborhood Watch” began, police held community meetings to educate the public to be the “eyes and ears for the police.” They presented local statistics and encouraged residents to secure their homes with deadbolt locks, motion sensor lights or install a security system. They wanted the public to report crime but the most important factor was minimized, neighbors knowing each other, building trust and solving minor problems.

Over the years, Americans lost a healthy balance between police and citizen responsibility for keeping neighborhoods safe. As citizens backed off, police increased their visibility and relied on technology to control behavior with limited success. Here are 12 ways police increased crime.

1. Police presented unrealistic expectations. National average approx 2.5 officers per 1000 residents. Police cannot keep your neighborhood safe.
2. Police became crime prevention “experts.” Citizens became passive “watchers.” Police and citizens lost a healthy balance of cooperation.
3. Police created dependency by assuming too much responsibility for minor problems including barking dogs, loud music, young vandals and bullies.
4. Police, in some areas, instill fear with local crime statistics. Citizens bought security systems or arm themselves fearing their neighbors.
5. Police increased anger. They received grants and staff support to “fix” neighborhoods. Neighbors backed off. When the money ran out, problems increased.
6. Police assume too much responsibility. Citizens blamed them for not doing their job. Result in some areas…hostility toward police, less cooperation and reporting.
7. Police increased neighborhood isolation. They held meetings and provided home security info. Neighbors arrived as strangers and left as strangers.
8. Police received community-policing grants. Citizens depend on police who didn’t live in the area. Policy shifts, officer leaves and crime, goes up.
9. Police, not parents or adults in the neighborhoods, became the symbol of authority and correction for youth.
10. Police assumed responsibility without understanding the benefits of neighbors solving problems and becoming role models for youth.
11. Police don’t say... it’s your responsibility to keep your neighborhood safe. Police react to crime, citizens prevent crime.
12. Police have many limitations. Residents must take back neighborhood safety if they want to keep children safe.

Americans can restore a healthy balance between police and citizen’s responsibilities for safety. However, neighbors must be involved to help control criminal behavior and correct youth BEFORE they get involved in gangs, drug abuse and violence. Youth safety in neighborhoods requires citizen participation, respect and cooperation.

The world is a dangerous place to live, not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don't do anything about it. Albert Einstein

Author's Bio: 

Mann is the author of 4 national crime prevention books.
She is a keynote speaker, workshop leader, interviewer

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