Reducing crime in your neighborhood often means a variety of well-coordinated strategies, and in one Michiana neighborhood, that plan appears to be working.
It is the Near Northwest neighborhood in South Bend, and while there's still a lot of work to be done, their game plan is changing life for residents there for the better.
It is all about working with police, your neighbors and an organization that is helping change the look and feel of this historic area.
Joe Taylor has lived on South Bend's Near Northwest Side for nearly forty years.
He has seen things go from bad to worse to better in recent years.
Joe says, “There's been a lot of improvement in my 36 years here. I've seen a lot of improvement because of Northwest.”
Joe is talking about Near Northwest Side, Incorporated, a non-profit that has worked with residents to revitalize the area.
With grant money, rundown homes are bought, rehabbed and sold as single family residences.
Joe fusses over his home and yard, and he is happy to see the homes across from his house looking as good as his.
“Look across the street. All them houses have been re-done, rehabbed, new things in them, new air conditioners, everything's new. It's very comfortable here.”
It's help changed the face of the area and, some say, made it safer.
Karen Ainsley says, “I mean, from more people interested in our homes, being here in the neighborhood, so just more overall interest to situations with crime and having more people taking ownership of their block and to make sure they don't have undesirable situations taking place next to them.”
That aspect, says Ainsley, has been made possible by another key component of safer neighborhoods in this part of town: working with police with some very vibrant neighborhood watch programs.
“What we see is in relationships with the police department, they don't always know what's going on on a given street. They only know if neighbors interact with them and call. So, for us, it's really an important bond with the police department, have that line of communication very open because that is the way we change the atmosphere on a particular block or street is if they're aware what's happening, if it's problematic.”
Folks on the Near Northwest Side say things really started to turn when people stopped complaining and started communicating.
“Our whole methodology is if I meet you, and you can meet your neighbor and we can all connect, you really increase your power and there's power in numbers…You can't come to our meetings and just complain, you can't come to our meetings and look for someone else to solve your problem. We're going to give you the tools, we're going to help you to get to the right people to help you solve your problems and to me, that's half the battle to get people to understand it's not about pointing the finger at somebody else, it's how can you engage, how can you get involved to make a difference in your own community.”
There are crime walks where the neighbors will walk through an area where there have been problems to let their presence be known and assure the folks living there that there is help from fellow residents.
They neighborhood has actually gotten grants to pay for police bike patrols, where the officers ride through neighborhoods, meet the residents, get to know the kids and make a positive impact, as opposed to just reacting to a crime in a certain area.