In an age when research shows adult Americans spend more than eight hours a day in front of screens - computer, TV, cell phone - and are increasingly putting in more hours in a downsized workforce, do we take the time to know our neighbors anymore? The family with the minivan full of kids across the street. The old guy on the corner. The young couple next door. Up and down the block are the pieces of a neighborhood fabric. Separately, they're just pieces. Sew them together and you have a community.
Empower that community with information, training and other resources, and you have a potent deterrent to something that can otherwise rip out the seams that hold a neighborhood together: Crime.
Research shows that crime rates are higher in disorganized neighborhoods, especially those with high levels of transience and diversity of income and ethnicity, according to the website USAonWatch.org. So in 1972, the National Sheriffs' Association created the National Neighborhood Watch Program to help citizens assist law enforcement. Since then, numerous programs have sprung up in communities across the United States to teach people how to build relationships in their neighborhoods and play an active role in strengthening their communities against crime.
G.A.I.N. (Getting Arizona Involved in Neighborhoods) is one such program, and in October - National Crime Prevention Month - and November, communities across the East Valley will be holding G.A.I.N. block parties and events to help neighbors get to know each other and learn how to protect themselves and their neighborhood from crime.
In Chandler, this year's G.A.I.N. event will be from 2 to 8 p.m. Oct. 22 at Chandler Police headquarters, 250 E. Chicago St., and in various neighborhoods with Block Watch groups. Some of these events will include visits from police units, such as the K-9 unit and patrol, who will provide useful tips and information.
Mesa's G.A.I.N. day is 4 to 8 p.m., Nov. 5. According to the Mesa Police website, the event is designed to bring together communities throughout the city for a common goal - "to let criminals know that citizens of Mesa are seriously united in the fight against criminal activity. This is a time to turn on your porch lights, go out into your neighborhood, and get to know your neighbors."
This isn't just for homeowners and residential areas. Mesa Police urges apartment complexes, mobile home communities, and businesses to also take an interest in knowing and protecting their neighborhood.
In Tempe, G.A.I.N. events will be taking place from 4 to 8 p.m., Oct. 22. According to the Tempe Police website, "Your event will allow the neighbors to get a chance to get to know each other better. When neighbors know and care about each other, they feel more comfortable reporting crime and suspicious activity to the Tempe Police Department. Did you know that the best crime prevention device is knowing your neighbor?"
So come on, East Valley, check with your local police department about how your neighborhood can participate in upcoming G.A.I.N. events.
And then, turn off the computer, the TV, the cell phone and turn on the porch light. Step outside and chat with your neighbors.
Don't let crime rip apart the fabric of your community.