Combatting Crime Through Neighborhood Connections

The Eastside neighborhood of Olympia, Washington is home to a mix of families and single people of varying ages. Some are homeowners, others renters, but most live in modest historic houses and duplexes built in the first half of the twentieth century. They're close to the downtown and fond of their neighborhood. 

A couple years ago, though, residents became increasingly troubled by a wave of crime including robberies and drug dealing.

Strong Towns member Roger Horn is one of those residents and he was serving on the Eastside Crime and Safety Committee at the time. The committee decided to conduct a survey of their neighborhood about the issue and found that around 80% of respondents commented that "getting to know our neighbors" would help reduce crime in the area.

A promotional poster for the neighborhood variety show

A promotional poster for the neighborhood variety show

This realization galvanized a new wave — this time of community activities. Four neighborhood block parties were hosted on a Friday night later that year, and they've become an annual event since. Roger, who had joined the Eastside Neighborhood Association's board by that point was involved with organizing several other neighborhood events including a Christmas caroling get-together, a "Winter Window Walkabout" to view decorated windows in the area, and a forum for city council candidates.

One of the most unique events the neighborhood put on was a "variety show" where residents performed everything from poetry to music to dancing. Organizers intentionally scheduled the show with a 20-minute break mid-way through so that residents could chat with one another, enjoy refreshments and build connections. 80 people attended the event.

Many of these neighborhood activities have turned into annual gatherings that residents look forward to each year.

Today, the neighborhood is also taking a more focused look at the future they want for their community as they work together on a "sub-area plan" — part of the city's Comp Plan process. Roger reports that two town halls were hosted to discuss "what we want to do to make our neighborhood a better place" and a survey is currently out to get feedback on what the biggest priorities are for the neighborhood. The sub-area plan will likely address issues such as transportation, infrastructure, and crime and safety.

Roger believes that this community-building response to crime concerns is quite consistent with the Strong Towns approach of strong citizens working to collaboratively build a prosperous place from the bottom-up. For his part, Roger keeps the list of Strong Towns principles on his fridge as a regular reminder of how to best make his neighborhood stronger, safer and more cohesive.

(Top photo source: dani0010)