We value community safety enhanced by shared accountability and strong personal relationships.
A recent LA Times editorial recapped a new paradigm for community safety best: “Just as the word peace means more than the absence of war, and health means more than the absence of disease, we must come to understand that safety means more than an absence of crime.”
The window of acceptable dialogue around how we keep our community safe has become too narrow and too specialized. Forward Lafayette believes that a safe community is well beyond the responsibility of our police department (crime). It is something that begins with our relationships with and expectations of one another, expands to our views on public health, education, community design, and more. Maximum safety can be achieved by having important—and difficult– conversations about tradeoffs and mitigation of risks. What makes your community safer by one metric can make it more dangerous by another.
It helps to think of safety through the lens of the threats posed to our most vulnerable. What do we most fear for our children, our elderly, or minorities?
For our children, we might fear them walking or biking to school alone because we are concerned they might be abducted. But while the statistics on child abduction are quite low, the risk of a child walking or biking to school and encountering a speeding vehicle or a poorly-timed street crossing grows more dangerous each year. Yet, we change our habits based on the lower chance of abduction than we do to change our habits based on a higher chance of traffic related injury or death. For those parents who can make this active choice, they can safely protect them from many of these dangers. But what about our most vulnerable children who must still walk or bike to school? Shouldn’t we prioritize the safety of all children and provide them with the choice of options for a safe passage to school? We don’t talk about the role of good street design when we talk about access to schools. We continue to drive them to school one by one, as we watch our community’s public health metrics for children decline. The challenge of integrating what we know about child abduction risk factors, street design and traffic control, and public health is so difficult that we fail to optimize community benefits and safety.
Optimizing community safety often involves challenging conversations, difficult tradeoffs, and ultimately complex problem solving. Forward Lafayette believes realizing that is the first and most important step to achieving a safe community.