Column: Greater sense of safety through community involvement

One of the best things we can do to feel safe in our community is to actively participate in it, says Dr. Rob Lees.

Why is it that even though crime rates are falling, the fear of crime in a lot of places is not?

Thankfully, there are ways to change this. According to the 2014 Chilliwack Quality of Life Survey, where you live, how old you are and your gender all determine your perception of crime. Presuming that perceptions of crime are related to our sense of safety, it is an important consideration that may affect what people feel free to do in their community. The survey found the people living in Garrison Crossing, for instance, are less concerned about crime than people living in downtown Chilliwack.

The most obvious solution to perceptions of crime might be a more visible police presence.  Police presence does make a difference. On Canada Day at Harrison Hot Springs, I counted five RCMP officers strolling the promenade, chatting and being part of the fabric of the event.  Ironically their presence ensured there was no need for them. This is the story of prevention. Without the RCMP, a few people who have consumed too much alcohol could make a crowd in close quarters uneasy.  This could lead ruin a great event.

Last week, Chilliwack held a “Party in the Park.” This event draws large numbers of people of all ages to the downtown core. It is a good time for children, but it is also a way for the community to lay claim to these public spaces.  When you travel in Europe, you see public spaces like this become an evening gathering place for community members. Here, we tend to live in our homes, cars and stores. We drive past these public spaces – Salish Park, the new park at five corners, and the park at Central Elementary.  In downtown Chilliwack, public places are often empty or occupied by small groups of people. There isn’t a sense of the commons the way there is in other communities and cultures.  In contrast, the Vedder Trail is an active commons with people on it from dawn to dusk, which could be linked to the greater sense of safety in Garrison.

I believe there are steps we, as individuals, can also take to change our sense of safety. One of the best things we can do to feel safe in our community is to actively participate in it. A man who, for the sake of anonymity we will call Don, tells me that he walks around a local park with his dog. He notices people, including a man who trolls his alley every day picking up cans. Don has taken the time to talk to this man, has found out a few things about him – let’s call him Bill , and they have built a bit of a relationship.  Some people might find a scavenger to be scary. Don sees Bill  as performing a service.  Recently he noticed that Bill’s bike pedals were  falling off. Don went to Walmart, bought a new bike and took it to  Bill’s  house. This unexpected act of charity caught Bill  off guard. As you can imagine, this had a positive effect on both men’s sense of community.

Getting to know the people in our community, being involved, contributing to it, are among  the best things we can all do to feel  safer in it.

 

Dr. Robert Lees is the Community Psychologist for the Ministry of Children and Family Development in Chilliwack.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Stephanie Higginson, president of the B.C. School Trustees Association, says people need to focus their attention on the upcoming byelection in Chilliwack. (BCSTA image)
‘Let’s not talk about Barry’ says BCSTA president on Chilliwack trustee

Higginson says impending Chilliwack byelection will require ‘laser focus’ to ensure balance of power

New Chilliwack Chief Ray Fust.
Chilliwack Chief Ray Fust in the mix for Swiss U20 roster spot

Fust is hoping to make the team that will compete in the World Junior Hockey Championships

An employee at a Chilliwack McDonald’s location tested positive for COVID on Nov. 21 (File photo by The Associated Press)
Employee tests positive for COVID-19 at McDonald’s restaurant in Chilliwack

One case was detected at the Vedder Road location, which briefly closed its doors

Asbestos bag from 2011. (Chilliwack Progress file)
New limits coming for asbestos at the Bailey Landfill in Chilliwack

Restricted to 20 bags per day per property because they don’t have capacity for larger loads

Cascade Falls Regional Park is one of several Fraser Valley parks that saw record usage during the summer of 2020. (File photo)
Residents flock to Fraser Valley parks amid pandemic

Some trails saw usage double during summer months of 2020

Kyle Charles poses for a photo in Edmonton on Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. Marvel Entertainment, the biggest comic book publisher in the world, hired the 34-year-old First Nations illustrator as one of the artists involved in Marvel Voice: Indigenous Voices #1 in August. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
VIDEO: Indigenous illustrator of new Marvel comic hopes Aboriginal women feel inspired

Kyle Charles says Indigenous women around the world have reached out

B.C. Liberal MLA Shirley Bond questions NDP government ministers in the B.C. legislature, Feb. 19, 2020. (Hansard TV)
Cabinet veteran Shirley Bond chosen interim leader of B.C. Liberals

28-member opposition prepares for December legislature session

Motorists wait to enter a Fraser Health COVID-19 testing facility, in Surrey, B.C., on Monday, November 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
COVID-19: What do rising positivity rates mean for B.C.? It’s not entirely clear

Coronavirus cases are on the rise but the province has not unveiled clear thresholds for further measures

A rider carves a path on Yanks Peak Saturday, Nov. 21. Two men from Prince George went missing on the mountain the next day. One of them, Colin Jalbert, made it back after digging out his sled from four feet under the snow. The other, Mike Harbak, is still missing. Local search and rescue teams went out looking Monday, Nov. 23. (Sam Fait Photo)
‘I could still be the one out there’: Snowmobiler rescued, 1 missing on northern B.C. mountain

As Quesnel search and rescue teams search for the remaining rider, Colin Jalbert is resting at home

Care home staff are diligent about wearing personal protective equipment when they are in contact with residents, but less so when they interact with other staff members, B.C. Seniors Advocate says. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
More COVID-19 testing needed for senior home staff, B.C.’s advocate says

Employees mingling spotted as virus conductor in many workplaces

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

This 2019 photo provided by The ALS Association shows Pat Quinn. Quinn, a co-founder of the viral ice bucket challenge, died Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020, at the age of 37. (Scott Kauffman/The ALS Association via AP)
Co-founder of viral ALS Ice Bucket Challenge dies at 37

Pat Quinn was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease, also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, in 2013

Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada David Lametti speaks with the media following party caucus in Ottawa, Tuesday, January 28, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Exclusion of mental health as grounds for assisted death is likely temporary: Lametti

Senators also suggested the exclusion renders the bill unconstitutional

Most Read