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Thursday, April 17, 2008

St. Louis needs to become a "walking city" again if it hopes to reduce crime.

A brilliant presentation in my "Citizen Participation" class inspired me to write this post.

My friend and the presenter in question, Rosie, used a timeless quote from Jane Jacobs' seminal work The Death and Life of Great American Cities.

No amount of police can enforce civilization where the normal casual enforcement of it has broken down.

What Jacobs means is that, without "eyes on the street" and people that care for (rather than fear) their community, neighborhoods will inevitably decline regardless of police presence. Law enforcement officials cannot replace a social fabric that was designed to offer mutual protection by neighborhood stewardship and vigilance.

One New Orleans group named SilenceisViolence has risen up against that city's crime wave to, to use the apt cliche, "take back the streets". "City Walks" is a program they sponsor in which a group of residents take...:

...weekly evening strolls from one New Orleans neighborhood to another. These walks are intended to nurture connections among neighborhoods, to establish a positive, anti-violence presence on our streets, and to bring new faces to businesses around the city. The City Walks will be held each Sunday evening, with a 7pm departure. We will walk 1-2 miles each week and will have a small reception at our destination establishment. Transportation will be provided back to the departure establishment.

What a simple and completely doable idea this could be for St. Louis. It is positive on so many fronts.

  1. It encourages walking through St. Louis neighborhoods--the very best form of transportation by which to appreciate this beautiful city is the tried-and-tested foot.
  2. It takes people through stigmatized and crime ridden neighborhoods so that residents can both take in the "bad" and appeal to the "good" that the neighborhood has to offer.
  3. It adds activity to neighborhoods that don't often see a wave of meandering pedestrians.
  4. It potentially builds cooperation and trust between neighbors who perhaps were too afraid to leave their homes to speak to one another before.
  5. It links adjacent neighborhoods and teaches residents to recognize that we shouldn't be so damn parochial!

In a city that reported 138 homicides last year such as St. Louis, the City Walks program could only serve to benefit the more forlorn of the city's streets.


Brian said...

That would be a great idea for Tower Grove South and Dutchtown, which have had their share of incidents in the last few months.

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