Taking Steps to Improve Neighborhood Safety Can Be Good for Your Health

Where you live plays a role in how healthy you are.

If your neighborhood is safe, you’re more likely to take advantage of features like parks or pools and you’re also more likely to take after-dinner walks or go for a jog, explained Captain Matt Ostapowicz, Westside Service Area Commander, Grand Rapids Police Department, at a recent Health Forum of West Michigan event.

“If you live in a safe neighborhood, you’re healthier,” he said.

Ostapowicz shared some tips for how you can work to improve the safety of your home and neighborhood.

Start at Home

Ostapowicz said a clean, well-kept home shows that the people inside care about it.

  • Reduce the likelihood of criminals targeting your home by making sure the lighting is maintained and trees and bushes are trimmed, eliminating hiding places.
  • Put valuable items such as bikes and lawn maintenance equipment away when you’re done using them, or lock them up to discourage theft.
  • Always lock your doors.
  • Invest in a surveillance system or camera, motion lights and timers.

Work on Your Street

  • Make a point to meet your neighbors.
  • Always work out your differences respectfully.
  • Lock your car doors.
  • Report any suspicious behavior that is out of the norm.
  • Spend time outside if possible. Ostapowicz explained that bad guys don’t really want you to see them being bad – your presence could stop crime before it happens.

Go to the Neighborhood Level

  • Participate in neighborhood watch programs.
  • Take part in or organize neighborhood block parties and cookouts.
  • Help neighbors out with mail or deliveries when they’re out of town and have a plan for when you’re away for any extended periods of time.

Be Active in Your Community

  • Be engaged with your neighborhood association.
  • Support and volunteer with organizations such as the Boys and Girls Club, which provides a positive place for young people to go.
  • Volunteer at local schools and churches and support local businesses.
  • Get engaged with local politics.

The ability to live a healthy lifestyle keeps people away from unhealthy and destructive behaviors, Ostapowicz said. Taking steps to make your home and community safer places to be is good for the overall health of your community.

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Photo credit: Emily May

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