October 17, 2008
Breaking down fences makes good neighborsConnie Peyer barely knew the family who lived across the street, so she was shocked when her neighbor came over, upset, saying her home had been burglarized in broad daylight and no one bothered to call police.
Towns encourage residents to get to know one another|Chicago Tribune reporter
Neighbors had watched as men loaded a truck with a television and appliances.
"Everyone thought, 'Oh, they're moving out,' " Peyer said.
The burglary taught Peyer a lesson about community isolation. So she was quick to volunteer when she learned that Skokie, where she had since moved, was sponsoring a program to help residents do what used to come naturally: get to know the Joneses next door.
28 years ago, I lived in central Cambridge, MA, when I heard that there was an attempted rape down the street. The woman cried out for help, and neighbors streamed out on the street of two and three story rowhouses. Afterwards, the neighbors held a block party to celbrate the power of community.
But when I moved onto that portion of the street a few months later, that all seemed a distant memory. So my housemates and I held a Neighborhood CrimeWatch meeting, and a police officer came by to talk about safety, and tagging possessions with ID numbers that would make them harder to pawn.
A few months later, our house got a call from the house across the street (we exchanged phone numbers). Did someone just steal one of our bikes?
Indeed they had. Even though we had hardly ever talked socially, the neighbor had a vague sense of who lived and visited our 7 person house.and thought it strange for someone to be removing a bike in the snowy dead of winter. It wasn't my first bike theft, nor my last; and the warning didn't come in time; but it did show the power of neighborhood.
(So I'm glad my neighborhood formed an association last Sunday night.)