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Neighborhood Safety, Security and Improvements
Personal safety and home security is a common concern for residents of all communities. That concern often provides the catalyst for forming and maintaining Neighborhood and Block Associations. Associations can provide a first line of defense by providing enough contact with neighbors to learn faces, cars and routines as a barometer for out of the ordinary occurrences. Establishing Neighborhood Watch Groups and informal networks of neighbors who look out for attempted illegal entry or a delivery truck at the home of neighbors who are on vacation are invaluable.
Neighborhood Associations also provide opportunities for residents to meet and dialogue with our police representatives who are pleased to share critical information about neighborhood and personal safety.
Many Neighborhood Associations also work with law enforcement to discuss and resolve issues related to traffic congestion, speeding and parking violations which affect their properties, homes and families. Working together, neighbors have been able to find solutions for various problems including
Case Study A Kensington Terrace is across from Columbia High School where all-day-teacher parking on this narrow, busy street created contention for residents at the beginning and end of the school day. Residents organized through their neighborhood association and appointed a representative who made an effective presentation to the Township Committee. It took just one meeting for the idea to be proposed to move the large group of school buses from behind locked gates in the back of the teachers’ main parking lot to a paved area behind the B of E maintenance building, freeing up space for teachers to park.
Case Study B On Maplewood Avenue, a resident raised a concern at a block party about commuters parking so close to the driveways that it dangerously blocked visibility when backing out into the busy street. This discussion led to developing a petition to create a buffer space for each driveway. This signed petition was presented to the Township Committee which led to a resolution that buffer markings be created to ease the problem. This continues to work very well.
Safety & Security Issues
Case Study The Irvington Avenue Block Group arranged a meeting with the South Orange Police Department’s Community Relations Officer, and their session covered multiple such topics as: Holiday tips – personal safety when shopping, vehicle safety, home safety, solicitors ;frauds, scams, ID thefts, car thefts; How to report a suspicious person or vehicle; Internet safety/computer crimes; Domestic violence; Village ordinances re: quality of life; Kids and prescription drugs; Gangs; Seton Hall related issues. The meeting led to increased police surveillance in the area and an on-going relationship between the local law enforcement and the block’s residents.
Case Study Orchard Park, just below Ridgewood Road, is a well-used focal point for a neighborhood covering a half dozen blocks. Neighbors recognized that the park was in need of refurbishing and created an informal neighborhood association to develop a checklist of needed improvements. They presented the list to the Township, and the Department of Public Works responded in a very positive way by Upgrading the path that leads through the park, repainting the shelter house which had peeling paint and graffiti, increasing the frequency of garbage collection – especially in the summer, adding wood chips to the play area and replacing some fallen trees. Residents then maintained the appearance by scrubbing off any occasional graffiti and picking up litter. This successful result led to the creation of an on-line Google group bulletin board among neighbors which is well used and helps build friendships and increased communication among the residents. An annual Thanksgiving Day father and son football game also draws families together.
Case Study A The Winthrop Block Association (Maplewood), is a tremendously close-knit neighborhood of 17 homes where everybody knows each other and their kids. They have block parties about every other month or whenever someone feels like getting together. Regular parties are held annually the Saturday after Thanksgiving to kick off the holiday season, Memorial Day and the Fourth of July.
One neighbor with a snow blower clears snow for the block whenever there’s a storm and people generally “look out and after each other”. If there’s a need for child care, pet sitting or to collect mail or newspapers for someone who is away, sending one email to the block usually resolves it. Neighbors lend gardening and other tools and often pitch in to help. One family hosts a farm share pickup site and another does low cost Yoga that neighbors are invited to. Because there are several residents who are retired or work at home, there are always people to keep a watch on things during the day.
Case Study B The Euclid (Maplewood) Neighborhood Association covers 32 homes. In addition to an annual backyard block party, the association uses an email system to pass on announcements of general interests or ask questions (who is a good roofer?), distributes a directory of all residents with their phones, emails, addresses and kids names, announces new residents, clears many walks with their snow blowers and helps each other in many ways.