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What is a Neighborhood?

There are a number of important concepts that help us understand how neighborhoods function to prevent crime and promote public health and safety. A brief review of many of these concepts is discussed below.

 
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Residential Area

One of the key elements to a neighborhood is that there needs to be residents. While neighborhoods can include commercial and even industrial areas, there needs to be some available residential living space. The actual number of residents vary according to the density of housing and the size of the neighborhood. The number of residents is also constantly increasing and decreasing as people move in and out of a neighborhood.

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Common Geography

The residences within a neighborhood exist nearby one another. People that live within the neighborhood will encounter one another in the vicinity of their home. While neighborhoods may have "official" boundaries, at JSS, we prefer to consider neighborhood boundaries organically by looking for visible changes in housing and identifiable "natural" barriers. Major roads, gates and fences, water features, commercial areas, parks, and even vegetation can serve as natural boundaries for a neighborhood.

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Social Ties

Residents living within neighborhoods often interact with one another. Neighbors encounter one another around their home. Other residents of the neighborhood are often met through simple encounters, such as walking a pet, children play groups, or encounters at nearby parks, schools, grocery stores, etc. Sometimes these ties can become long-lasting friendships. But even weak ties (acquaintanceships or simply knowing people) are important for public safety within a neighborhood.

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Information Sharing

Social ties within a neighborhood form a social network that allows residents to convey information. Some of this information includes issues relating to the safety and upkeep of their neighborhood. Through this communication, residents receive information and advice about local public safety concerns. This information can help residents exercise more effective guardianship over their living space and help residents be aware of crime victimization risks.

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Shared Goals

Regardless of the neighborhood, the majority of residents share many of the same goals. Most neighborhood residents would like to live in an area that is safe. For families in particular, keeping loved ones safe from harm is of paramount importance. Residents also generally prefer clean streets, functional neighborhood facilities, and a sense of belonging in their community. These shared goals allow for residents to act collectively to problems rather than individually. Serious concerns are easier to fix when neighborhood residents work together.

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Informal Social Control

Formal Social Control is calling the police or asking other agents of the government for assistance with a problem. Informal Social Control on the other hand are the steps that residents within a neighborhood can take on their own to address problems. This can be watching the street, asking questions of strangers, talking with the parents of unruly teenagers, or other similar actions. Informal social control is one of the main ways residents can promote a safe and healthy neighborhood.