Homeowners associations (HOAs) and other groups are working with local police to help make neighborhoods safer with commonsense rules and strategies.
For example, three years ago, Avondale’s Cashion neighborhood experienced gang fights, drive-by shootings and other crimes. Crime in the area dropped by more than 50 percent after the Avondale Police Department met with homeowner groups, converted an old community center into a police substation and began interacting with residents, AZCentral.com reports.
Hundreds of Phoenix-area neighborhood groups have adopted the city’s crime prevention program. Called Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED), it includes modifying the physical environment through landscaping (planting thorny bushes, or flattening berms) and adding lighting and other primarily visual means to discourage home break-ins and other crimes, says Clint Goodman, a former police officer and volunteer for Arizona’s Community Association Institute, an organization dedicated to building better communities.
Citizens report most neighborhood crimes, according to the National Sheriff’s Association. That’s why community groups encourage National Neighborhood Watch, a volunteer program for residents to observe comings and goings and call police if they spot suspicious activities. For instance, Westown Block Watch, formed 17 years ago, has seen “crime and blight” decline because of its efforts, according to the group’s newsletter.
Community groups also host web and social media sites and produce newsletters to make residents more safety-conscious. These tools also provide helpful resources like emergency phone numbers and lists of reputable retailers. For example, Sunnyslope’s HOA in Phoenix uses its newsletter to pass on crime prevention tips. Some groups alert neighbors to burglaries or other crimes through online newsletters and flyers that are mailed or posted, as the Dobson Ranch Homeowners Association in Mesa does.
Another way organizations help combat criminal activity is through community pride of ownership, an attitude encouraged by CPTED. HOAs do this by installing fencing and signs (for example, “watch for children playing”) in common recreational areas. They also sponsor social activities like block parties and clean-ups, and purchase items like benches and water fountains for shared areas. The goal is to attract residents and make it easier to spot strangers and suspicious activity, according to the website.
Another security measure that groups use is lighting. Phoenix’s Community Association Institute suggests low-glare, LED lighting that requires infrequent bulb replacement in potential problem areas such as pathways, laundry rooms and trash bins. Many groups also contract with the Salt River Project for a “dusk-to-dawn” lighting system, which automatically turns on exterior lights at sunset and turns them off at sunrise.
In addition, community groups are helping to deter crime through regular property maintenance, according to New Hope of Arizona. Groups paint over graffiti, repair or replace broken waste containers, trim trees and bushes and perform other services. “High bushes and dark areas increase the risk of crime,” Goodman says.
The Crime Free Multi-Housing program, adopted by dozens of Phoenix HOAs, calls for mandatory background checks on prospective residents and a signed addition to the lease, allowing HOAs to evict residents who commit felonies, Goodman says.
“It’s one of the best things an HOA can do,” he says. “It gets at the roots of crime.”
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