A SPATE OF local shootings, including two deadly outbursts this summer in Plymouth, might compel certain Luzerne County residents to hunker down in their houses and complain about what they perceive as runaway crime rates.
So be it; there always will be miserable sorts whose only response to a problem is to grumble.
The rest of you – those who refuse to retreat into walled-off spaces, self-defeating mindsets and other prisons of your own making – can adopt any number of strategies aimed at reducing criminal activity and making your neighborhood a safer and more pleasant place.
• Get to know your neighbors. Introduce yourself to the people whom you previously only acknowledged with a wave. Better yet, hold a block party or other activity to help people on your street become more familiar. Chances are, if you share the same space, you share many of the same concerns about abandoned vehicles, nuisance properties and other potential trouble spots.
• Stop opposing every planned methadone clinic and drug-treatment program that attempts to enter your community. If your area isn't helping abusers to conquer their habits, isn't it simply fueling the likelihood for more drug use and all the ugliness it attracts: illicit manufacturers, dealers and, inevitably, violence?
• Start a crime watch program or join an existing one. Participants – who are never asked to put themselves in harm's way – typically get the latest updates on criminal patterns in their community and learn safety tips to employ at home. Regardless of whether you belong to a group, don't hesitate to report suspicious activity to police.
• Engage with elected officials. Attend council meetings and let your leaders know you expect sensible ordinances regarding rental properties and swift action on rundown homes. Is your community's police force adequate? Can it be enhanced? If not, have you urged officials to move forward with plans for a combined force with nearby towns?
• Support youth programs. Better that your bucks, in the form of charitable donations, go toward Big Brothers Big Sisters or Scouting programs than, in the form of tax dollars, to the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, right?
• Improve the area's housing stock by sprucing up your property, if needed, or lending help to a neighbor lacking either the ability or cash to handle routine maintenance. In some communities, volunteers operating under the banner "Paint the Town" regularly pitch in with lawn rakes and paint brushes.
• Take reasonable precautions. We don't subscribe to the belief that you need to stockpile your "castle" with readily accessible handguns. Evidence suggests you're probably safer by latching a sturdy deadbolt lock in each exterior door and by flipping on the porch lamps.
A single light bulb – like a bit of enlightenment – can do far more than you might imagine.