It is your business: When to be a nosy neighbor

Worried about neighborhood safety? Don't hide out in your house, be proactive! Your positive influence can make your neighborhood a safe place to be.

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  • Neighborhood safety is an important issue. Some people are great at being friendly and reaching out, but other people like to be left alone. Finding the balance between being the neighborhood know-it-all and a hermit can be tricky. Here are some ideas to help you keep your neighborhood safe while respecting others’ boundaries.

  • Meet the neighbors

  • It’s wise to know the people who live near you. When my family moved to our current neighborhood five years ago, we took cookie plates to our closest neighbors and introduced ourselves. Meeting your neighbors gives you a chance to make new friends, but also allows you to see what kind of people you’re sharing a street or building with.

  • Set the example

  • Be the kind of neighbor others would like to have. Keep your yard clean, say hello to neighbors on the street, watch out for children and pets and volunteer to help your neighbors when you can. Let your neighbors know when you’re having parties that might cause parking issues. If you are friendly and courteous, others are more likely to follow your lead.

  • Be observant

  • Spend time outside in your neighborhood so you can keep an eye on things. Notice parked cars, kids hanging out, solicitors and what’s going on generally. You’re more likely to notice if something is wrong if you are familiar with the comings and goings of people on your street.

  • Keep in touch

  • Take time to visit with your neighbors as you see them. Our neighbors had some kids breaking a hole in their fence, so they asked us to watch out for them while they were at work. We have attended neighborhood picnics where common safety issues are discussed. Cars tend to speed on our street, which is near a park, so some neighbors are working with the city to get a speed bump installed.

  • Report suspicious activity

  • Don’t be afraid to report anything that seems suspicious. I recently called the non-emergency police hotline about a car that was idling on the street at all hours of the day. My neighbors and I suspected drug activity. The police took the report seriously, sending an officer out to check on things and encouraging us to contact them with further concerns.

  • Speak up, kindly

  • If your neighbors let their dogs roam or you see some kids vandalizing property, speak up. Problems are less likely to occur if people are aware you’re watching out. You have a right to have a safe neighborhood.

  • For more ideas on neighborhood safely, including starting a Neighborhood Watch program, check out the information posted by the National Crime Prevention Council and the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Both offer great resources. Be proactive, and even nosy, so you and your family can enjoy a safer, happier neighborhood.

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Amy M. Peterson, a former high school English teacher, currently lives in Oregon with her husband and four children. She spends her days writing, reading, exercising and trying to get her family to eat more vegetables.

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