National Night Out

National Night Cookout 2011

by Jay on August 17, 2011

I’ve been in this quiet little neighborhood near where Hope Valley Road and University Drive intersect for 10 or 11 years now. There has been very little crime here other than change being taken from cars and a few break-ins when nobody was at home.  But a few years ago a neighbor walked into her home while somebody was breaking in her back door.  This created some concern that eventually led us to the police departments Community Watch program. Early on I was recruited to be a “block captain” and we were off and running.

Crime in the neighborhood is still so rare and random that I’m not sure the Watch has had much impact on crime.  What has been interesting is the impact that the organizing effort has had on  community spirit.  On August 2, the day after the big showdown on the debt ceiling, the group organizing the National Night Out cookout for the neighborhood was more worried about having enough ice in the heat to chill the drinks than the shenanigans in Washington.  Well, I was anyway, since I was kind of heading up the drinks committee.

The event itself was a great success. The police made a welcome appearance as did city manager Tom Bonfield and several of his staff but the overall spirit was not about rallying against the invading hoards. The emphasis was clearly on getting to know each other so we can recognize and look out for each other.

Our little University Heights group is relatively new as neighborhood associations go in Durham and it’s part of a trend that has long been associated with some of the very active groups in neighborhoods like Trinity Park.  If you are moving to Durham, it may puzzle you a little the premium price that you often have to pay  in these neighborhoods.   The demand is very high.  In fact, many homes that change hands never really hit the market; they just get mentioned on a list serve and, bam, before you know it, it’s done.  That’s not great for Realtors, but it is great for the community.

It’s a mistake to think about these organizations strickly in terms of a “Crime Watch.”   That’s a part, of course, and more important in some areas than others.  But the small town neighborliness they engender add a tremendous value to real estate within its boundaries.  Keep this in mind when shopping for a home. Crime statistics don’t tell the whole story.  A crime, even just a property crime, can be devastating, but often it’s not the direct impact but the feelings of isolation and helplessness that often plague crime victims. Group support and action not only prevent crime but ameliorate the damage crime can do to morale and a feeling of safety.

There were about 100 different events in Durham on National Night Out. As this movement continues to spread and mature, it will continue to make Durham the location of choice for people moving to the Triangle.



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