On kidsdata.org, neighborhood safety is measured by parents’ responses to a survey question about how safe their children are in their surroundings and neighborhood.
Unsafe neighborhoods are associated with a range of negative outcomes for children and youth, such as infant mortality, low birthweight, child abuse and neglect, and dropping out of school (1). Youth growing up in unsafe neighborhoods also are more likely than other youth to become victims or perpetrators of violent crime (1). In addition, witnessing violence and crime is related to higher levels of aggression, stress, withdrawal, and lower levels of school achievement (1).
Nationwide, African American/Black and Latino children, as well as children in low-income and single-mother homes, are most likely to live in unsafe neighborhoods, according to parent reports (1).
Source for this narrative:
1. Child Trends. (2012). Neighborhood Safety. Retrieved from: http://www.childtrendsdatabank.org/?q=node/184.
Given that behavior is affected not only by actual safety, but also by the perception that a neighborhood is unsafe (1), policymakers should seek to address both of these issues. They can target observable characteristics (e.g. graffiti) that make parents and children feel a place is unsafe, address genuine safety concerns like the presence of gangs and crime, and create safe places and routes to school for children. In addition, strengthening communities within neighborhoods can be part of a comprehensive strategy to reduce inequities in neighborhood safety and health. (2)
According to research and subject experts, policy options that could address neighborhood safety include:
- Support community-level decision-making and capacity to infuse local
health and safety concerns into land-use, transportation, planning and
other public decision-making (2), and to build the “collective efficacy”
of the neighborhood – the social cohesion of neighbors and their
willingness to act for the common good (6)
- Designing neighborhoods and controlling signs of neighborhood disorder
and deterioration -- such as graffiti and decaying buildings -- in a way
that contributes to a perception of safety (9)
- Providing children and youth with safe places to go after school (4),
and focusing on strategies to engage older youth in positive community
activities and programs that are designed to increase retention in
out-of-school-time programs (5)
- Ensuring that children have safe bike and walking routes to school (3)
- Addressing elevated risk factors for joining a gang by strengthening
families, focusing on lesser delinquent behavior, moderating school
discipline policies and improving school climate, providing academic
support, enhancing adult supervision, improving conflict resolution
skills, and offering positive alternatives for youth recreation (8)
- Using a two-pronged strategy by which law enforcement weeds out criminal activity from a neighborhood while “seeding” the neighborhood with prevention, intervention, treatment, and neighborhood revitalization services (7)
For more policy ideas on neighborhood safety, visit kidsdata.org's Research & Links section and the National Crime Prevention Council and the Prevention Institute. Also see Policy Implications on kidsdata.org under Gang Involvement, Juvenile Arrests, and Alcohol, Tobacco & Other Drugs.
Sources for this narrative:
1. Burdette, et al. (2005). A National Study of Neighborhood Safety, Outdoor Play, Television Viewing, and Obesity in Preschool Children. Pediatrics, 116(3), 657-663. http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/cgi/reprint/116/3/657
2. Cohen, et al. (2009). A Time of Opportunity: Local Solutions to Reduce Inequities in Health and Safety. Prevention Institute. http://www.preventioninstitute.org/component/jlibrary/article/download/id-637/127.html
3. Orenstein, et al. (2007). Safe Routes to School Safety and Mobility Analysis: Report to the California Legislature. University of California at Berkeley Traffic Safety Center. http://escholarship.org/uc/item/5455454c#page-5
4. Lee, B. (2010). California’s After-school Commitment: Keeping Kids on Track and Out of Trouble. Fight Crime: Invest in Kids. http://fightcrime.org/state/2010/reports/californias-after-school-commitment-2010
5. Deschenes, et al. (2010). Engaging Older Youth: Program and City-Level Strategies to Support Sustained Participation in Out-of-School Time. Harvard Family Research Project. http://www.hfrp.org/content/download/3627/102254/file/EngagingOlderYouth-042710.pdf
6. Sampson, et al. (1997). Neighborhoods and Violent Crime: A Multi-level Study of Collective Efficacy. Science. http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.81.2927&rep=rep1&type=pdf
7. Trudeau, et al. (2010). Independent Evaluation of the National Weed and Seed Strategy: Final Report. RTI International for the U.S. Department of Justice. https://www.ncjrs.gov/app/publications/Abstract.aspx?id=254330
8. Howell, J. (2010). Gang Prevention: An Overview of Research and Programs. Juvenile Justice Bulletin, U.S. Department of Justice. http://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/ojjdp/231116.pdf
9. Wilson, et al. (2009). Preventing Neighborhood Crime: Geography Matters. National Institute of Justice Journal, U.S. Department of Justice. http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/nij/journals/263/neighborhood-crime.htm
In 2010, most California children were safe in their surroundings and neighborhood (84%), according to a survey of parents. However, 12% of children have parents who believe their children are unsafe in their surroundings. The level of concern about neighborhood safety varies considerably by demographic group. One in five (20%) children with family incomes below $25,000 were considered unsafe in their neighborhoods, compared to only 1.6% of children with household incomes more than $125,000. While 9% of children in the Bay Area were considered unsafe in their neighborhoods, 17% of children in Los Angeles County had parents who rated their neighborhoods as unsafe.