Neighborhood safety is important to everyone, but what makes up a “safe neighborhood” for one family may not be safe enough for another. Families with children may be looking for one set of criteria to keep their kids safe, while other families are concerned for pets, aging parents, or loved ones with special needs. The best way to determine if a neighborhood is safe enough for your family is to first decide what qualities and type of community would embody your version of safety.
Here are some things to consider when trying to determine what your ideal safe neighborhood could look like:
Schools – How many schools are in the area? How are they rated? More schools in the area might mean a neighborhood populated by more families and children.
Parks – Are they clean? Do they have a playground? What is the crime rate in or surrounding the parks?
Medical care and emergency services – Is it important that these establishments are located in or outside of a certain radius of your home?
Sidewalks and bike lanes – Would you be able to travel around your neighborhood safely without a vehicle?
Public transportation – Do you prefer or only utilize public transportation? Where is the nearest stop? How late do the buses or trains run?
Lighting at night – Does this neighborhood have ample lighting during the night?
No matter what a safe neighborhood looks like for you, make an informed decision by researching, visiting, and talking to community members within that particular area.
Let’s Get Started
Now that you’ve determined what your ideal safe neighborhood might look like, it’s time to do some research!
If schools are an important characteristic, greatschools.org is a great way to look at schools within a certain address, zip code or school district. They provide school ratings on the quality of a school, student progress, equity, test scores, and college readiness!
Checking the crime rate and sex offender database for a neighborhood is also a great way to gain insight into its potential safety. Crime data resources like the FBI’s Crime Data Explorer, Spot Crime, and City Protect provide insight on how frequently crime is an issue and what types of crimes are most prevalent. To review information regarding registered sex offenders in a particular area, take a look at The National Sex Offender Public Website or visit the FBI’s website to view additional resources run by individual jurisdictions in each state.
When checking on access to public transportation, medical centers, or law enforcement in a particular area a simple Google search should do the trick!
A picture may be worth a thousand words but seeing something for yourself can make all the difference. If it’s convenient, try to drive or walk around the neighborhood in question. This is a great time to gain insight into sidewalk and bike lane access, lighting at night, and park cleanliness.
It is also good to take note of how many homes are for sale. If there are a lot of homes on the market it might be an indicator of high crime rates or a downturn in the market. Another good thing to examine is the overall condition of the neighborhood. Are there broken windows, unkempt yards, or run-down homes/fences? A few dilapidated homes here or there is usually nothing to worry about, but a multitude of red flags could indicate an unsafe community.
Sometimes the best way to learn about a new area is by simply talking to people who currently live or work there. Visit local establishments and ask staff members for their honest opinion. While you’re touring the neighborhood, if it feels appropriate, approach a bystander and ask for their opinion as well!
Now that you have utilized all the tools at your disposal, you can make an empowered and informed decision on whether or not a neighborhood is safe! If you are still unsure about the level of safety after trying all these steps, it might be a sign that this is not the right neighborhood for you.