Criminals in your neighborhood

Visitor Question:> How can you deal with criminals in your neighborhood? My neighborhood is being terrorized by a relatively few bad buys (and one bad gal too). Older people are afraid to leave their homes, and yet they have to endure gun fire nearly every night.

Is there a way that neighborhoods usually deal with a situation like this? What can be done to keep those few people off the streets? I feel like if we could just get rid of the few bad apples, we would have a calm neighborhood again like it used to be.

Editors Reply: We are so sorry you are having to deal with this unsettling situation.

There are several possible way to try to improve your situation. First and foremost, do anything you can to improve your neighborhood in general. Become active in your neighborhood association, or if you don't have one, start one. (See our page on how to start a neighborhood association if you need this information.)

Second, talk to anyone who will listen. Start with your elected representative to the city council and let that person know that you demand action. Ask them for ideas, and suggest that they find out what has worked in comparable neighborhoods in your city or state.

Also try to meet with the police chief, or if you are in a larger city, that may be a precinct captain in charge of your area. Give them all of your intelligence and suspicions about particular people, and ask them what can be done.

In addition, your equivalent of a prosecuting attorney for the city or county might be helpful. In addition to placing some subtle pressure on this official about pressing charges whenever warranted, these attorneys have insight into the court system, sentencing habits of particular judges, and may even know something about how well the parole system is working and any available programs for former prisoners trying to re-enter society.

We mention the re-entry situation since that is a source of some of these "bad apples" that you describe.

You also could approach that prosecutor and any sympathetic judges with your neighborhood's plan for court monitoring. See our court monitoring page for more information. Take advantage of any opportunities that your city or state offers for making statements about the negative impact a particular crime and criminal has had on your neighborhood.

Ask about the potential for witness protection, since many times in neighborhoods that have a tendency toward violence, neighbors will not testify or even identify themselves because they are afraid of retribution the minute the police officers or detectives step away.

Note that even if a prosecutor or judge isn't especially helpful, in most states and cities you have a right to attend court proceedings, and if your neighborhood starts to do that as a group, you may see some better results.

Lastly, of course crime and criminality often has its roots in poor care during childhood, poor education, lack of economic opportunities, and lack of affordable and available programs in the areas of mental health and addiction. Do all you can to make sure that the rising generation feels that they have abundant opportunities without resorting to violence and criminality.

Keep reading the many pages of this website that might help with this issue. To some extent your neighborhood is probably being impacted by regional demographic and economic forces beyond your immediate control, but you can do some things to improve the situation. Like all community development activities, crime prevention requires determined and smart effort, often over the course of years.

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