My parents live in a New Hampshire town that’s like a movie version of New England: White churches, a town common, big red barns, and friendly people.
It was common, until recently, for cars and houses to be left unlocked, kids to play alone in the woods, and unknown visitors waved at, rather than worried about. Nothing too big ever went down. There was a bank robbery a few years ago, but the guy held up the branch with a note, not a weapon, and then rode away as fast he could pedal his Huffy 10-speed up the road and into the woods.
He didn’t get far.
Naturally, all this laid-back, non-worry makes me seem uptight and worried when I’m visiting. Sure, maybe the neighbors can be trusted, but there’s always a maniac or two out and about even in these perfect towns. Hasn’t anyone seen 48 Hours?
Recently, a series of burglaries shook up the town. While the community blames people from outside of the area for these burglaries, what really hits home for them is that things have changed.
Doors are now locked. Porch lights are on timers and motion sensors. Neighbors report anything out of the ordinary, even an unfamiliar jogger on a new path. My parents installed a home alarm system. According to the local paper, “Community Crime Watch is On.”
People have changed.
But week after week while writing the Montrose crime blotter for Patch, I read reports from the of unlocked houses burglarized, unlocked cars entered, and purses and valuables left in plain sight on car seats. Writing the for Patch has changed my awareness of La Crescenta and Montrose while I’m the area.
But what I’m wondering is: Has crime in Montrose and La Crescenta changed the people here?
While we can’t protect ourselves from everything, when do we begin to let go of our ideas of safety in our communities and begin living with the realities of our communities? We can’t stop someone throwing a rock through our windows, but we can do simple things to ward off those who will victimize us. When do we make the switch from leaving the car doors unlocked to setting the alarm?
How many reports need to be filed before we start paying attention to the little things that can make a big difference?
Being aware, locking the car doors, and keeping the house secure doesn’t mean we’re not safe or that our town has gone downhill, it just means we’re not easy pickings and we’re proud to keep our community as our community. It’s not giving up an ideal, it’s ensuring its longevity.