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A Cry for Community

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The central question in the debate about how to decrease crime should not be: how many more police are needed? -- instead, it should be: how do we create communities where people feel safe, comfortable and empowered to get involved in making the decisions that affect their own destinies?

Throughout America, people feel they are losing their sense of community. A major part of this feeling is related to how comfortable and safe people feel in their own downtown and neighborhoods. When people talk about losing their sense of community and feeling unsafe, they are often referring to problems that have nothing directly to do with crime. In fact, people report feeling unsafe in many downtowns where the crime rate is low!

Obvious factors such as uncollected litter, graffiti, people hanging out, dark streets with little nighttime activity, and other elements, translate very quickly into the perception that an area is unsafe.

Less obvious, is a continuing trend to "suburbanize" downtowns and neighborhoods, the cumulative impact of which is to destroy rather than strengthen peoples' sense of community. People in community after community have stories that strike a common chord. ...

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