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Home + Safety: A Police Chief’s Perspective

March 2016

 

Working in the public safety field for close to thirty years, I have come to realize through all my experiences that a home is more than a place where a person lives.  In St. Louis, I have seen the impact of often well-intentioned developers, city planners, and local leaders who have failed to appreciate that a home exists within a wider community context.  To have a home, an apartment, or some form of shelter is basic human necessity but a home is more than just shelter.  Depending on the environment around the home, shelter alone does not produce the full benefits of the home as an expression of the American Dream without attention to the quality and safety of the community. 

Within this context, a home is also about the collective connection and health of the community.  It’s about building wealth within families and moving up the social and economic ladder.  The most successful development projects in urban areas have engaged the community in the planning and design process.  These grass roots efforts provide insight, ownership, and diversity of thought that address the needs and vision of community.

Law enforcement is a part of this community as well.  Safety is critical to the home experience.  Home is the one place where we all should feel most safe.  I remember as a child my home being burglarized and never feeling as comfortable at home after that experience.  It’s logical today with technology that security features are a part of any home but a home is also about the safety of the neighborhood.  Having a home locked behind bars, security cameras, and alarms is not a true home.  To feel at home, you must feel  safe in the community where your home resides.   

Attention to crime prevention through environmental design makes a neighborhood a home through adequate street lighting, well maintained landscaping and roads, and having sufficient number of receptacles available for trash disposal.  These are all quality of life issues that produce conditions that prevent crime and add to a feeling of safety in one’s home. 

A home is also about neighborhood-based schools, churches, medical facilities and grocery stores – institutions and resources that are the foundation of a home and community.  And of course, an engaged police department and city government working under a community partnership model concerned and responsive to problems that inevitably arise in any community.

Everyone should have the chance to participate in the American Dream of a safe and healthy home along with a safe and healthy neighborhood that gives citizens the opportunity to thrive in their homes.

This article is written by Dan Isom Ph.D.
Retired Chief of Police – City of St. Louis
Professor of Policing and the Community
Department Criminology and Criminal Justice
University of Missouri-St. Louis

Photo Credits:

Photo by MPR Photo/Jennifer Simonson

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