Community connection key to public safety

Steve Woolrich

Building relationships within our communities and truly connecting with those around us is vital and helps ensure a greater quality of life. This is essential in creating sustainable, active, friendly and economically viable places to live, work and play. However, this also helps foster more activity on our streets, reduces the potential for crime, social disorder and increases public safety.

We continue to hear odd rumblings about our downtown coming from those that dispute how safe or unsafe the area really is. For those of us that frequent our downtown daily and are truly interacting in this environment there is no question that it’s safe. This intelligence is not gathered through social media avenues such as facebook and twitter. To effectively do this and enjoy the experience you must ideally embrace inclusiveness and connect with others around you. This is achieved face to face and by physically experiencing your downtown and being socially engaged with those around you.

Joel Kotkin, in his book titled The City: A Global History, wrote that to be successful, a city must be “sacred, safe and busy.” We need to strive to create more ownership or a sense of belonging downtown. The Greater Downtown Action Plan supports this idea and will help transform the area. New buildings and various projects are well-underway. Places like our new Veteran’s Memorial Park and RCMP detachment are great examples that demonstrate good design and great use of space. I’ve always remembered the line from the film Field of Dreams, starring Kevin Costner, “Build it and they will come.” We are well advised to go beyond this and build it properly so they will stay.

Continuing to collaborate with a wide-range of stakeholders through various means of community engagement will keep us on track. The City of Red Deer encourages community residents to attend events and participate in this process. The Let’s Talk event, held recently at the Bower Place Shopping Centre is a great example of keeping the lines of communication open. A variety of committees have also been established and include citizens volunteering their time and providing valuable input on issues such as crime prevention, safety and security. These efforts often go unrecognized but provide valuable insight and help transform our community.

When we talk about community building whether it’s in our downtown or in our neighbourhoods, it’s important that we take action by seeking out others, making connections and exploring the potential for new partnerships. Talking about this is never enough and complaining about deficiencies is unproductive unless you are willing to be part of a solution that brings about positive change. It reminds me of the pessimist complaining about the wind, the optimist that thinks it will change and the realist who adjusts the sails. I for one prefer to be a realist.

There is no doubt that we are moving in the right direction but are there enough of us supporting the good work that is being done, or are we to busy complaining about what’s wrong all the time. Are you empowering others or building barriers and resisting change? It’s connectivity in our community that ensures healthy cohesion and a safer public realm that is vibrant and thrives. This more balanced approach is not only healthy it’s contagious and will eventually drown out the critics and help reduce the negative perceptions they often seem to promote.

Turn off your Blackberry for a day, grab a coffee downtown, check out that unique gift shop, take a stroll and greet someone with a smile and say hello. If you must tweet something today, tweet this from Dan Gardner’s book titled Risk, “Whatever challenges we face, it remains indisputably true that those living in the developed world are the safest, healthiest, and richest humans who ever lived.”

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