Public safety

Health and smart growth: Safety tops obesity

There are two primary fronts in the healthy communities movement — safety and obesity. A stronger emphasis on safety is more likely to succeed with citizens and public officials.

No child left outside

A report details the mental health consequences for children of spending less time playing on their own. A mom in Texas was arrested for letting her kids play outside. The built environment is partly to blame.

The inspiring story of Hamburg, NY

An Upstate New York village defied the Department of Transportation and created a human-scale Main Street, restoring community to a downtrodden downtown.

The tragedy of the cul-de-sac

A new study provides more confirmation that violent and accidental deaths of all kinds are more common in suburban and rural areas. The primary cause: Automobile accidents.

Homicide charges dropped for Georgia woman, cause celebre for pedestian activists

Raquel Nelson pays a jaywalking fine, but the task of making pedestrian-hostile suburbs like Marietta walkable has just begun.

Zoning matters for urban crime, study suggests

A study of 205 blocks in high-crime areas of Los Angeles suggests that increasing residential zoning in blocks that are otherwise zoned for commercial can reduce crime. The study, published in the February issue of University of Pennsylvania Law Review, finds that city blocks zoned exclusively for residential uses, as well as those zoned for residential and commercial (mixed) uses have less crime than blocks that are zoned solely for commercial use. The research shows that single-use commercially zoned blocks have expected crime rates that are about 45 percent higher than blocks with residential uses mixed in.

How about schools on safe routes?

A program to build Schools on Safe Routes would not only be more intelligent, it would be more effective and far cheaper.

Transit-oriented development resistant to Sandy

Arverne-by-the-Sea, on the Rockaway Peninsula in Queens, surprised many residents by its resilience to Superstorm Sandy. While many nearby neighborhoods were heavily damaged or destroyed, the new urban Arverne, one of the largest current developments in New York City, was little damaged. Conservation of protective dunes and a heavy-duty drainage system were design factors in resilience of the project, designed by Ehrenkrantz Eckstut & Kuhn, now called EE&K, a Perkins Eastman Company. See the article in the January-February 2013 issue of Better! Cities & Towns.

Safety and community: a tale of two neighborhoods

More than 700 people in Chicago died during an extreme heat wave in July, 1995. Two adjacent neighborhoods, both poor and predominantly black with the same microclimate, demonstrate how social connections can save lives, according to a report in The New Yorker by sociologist Eric Klinenberg. The Englewood death rate was 33/100,000 population, among the highest in the city. In Auburn-Gresham, where a "viable social infrastructure" survives with small commercial establishments that draw the elderly out of their homes into public life, the death rate was 3/100,000 — among the lowest in the city. Public discussion focuses on physical infrastructure to protect us from natural threats like climate change, Klinenberg says, but social systems are just as important in times of crisis and everyday life. The average life expectency is five years higher in Auburn-Gresham than Englewood, which suffered severe abandonment in the latter part of the 20th Century.

Crime rises in suburbs, falls in cities

During the first decade of this century the US suburban homicide rate rose 16.9 percent while declining 16.7 percent in cities, according to a Wall Street Journal report. Overall, crime dropped sharply in the US from 2000-2010. "The decline in homicides nationally has overshadowed a countertrend: rising murders in the suburbs, the communities that ring cities and have long been promoted as havens from violent crime," says the Journal. Criminologists and public officials cite weaker and more resource-strapped law enforcement in the suburbs as one cause. "That, in turn, attracts criminals who focus on suburbs, because they are looking for easier places than relatively well-policed cities to commit crimes," the article says. Twenty-five percent of US murders now take place in suburbs, up from 20.7 percent in 2001.

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