Thursday, December 3, 2009 - By Ben Berkowitz - 2 comments
Neighborhood Watch 2.0
Another day, another mugging in a city. However, now citizens have a tool they can use to self-organize, crowdsource solutions to the problem, reach out to relevant public officials, create neighborhood watches, and inform the police.
Last night there was another in what has become a string of muggings at the corner of Olive and Court Streets in New Haven. The incident occurred around 6:00 pm and by 7:30 there was an issue opened on SeeClickFix (http://www.seeclickfix.com/issues/10256). As of this posting, 45 people have commented on the thread.
As reported in a story in The New Haven Independent, poor lighting in the area is contributing to the proliferation of crime in the area (http://www.newhavenindependent.org/archives/2009/11/ashley_kremzer.php). The problem was first acknowledged in SeeClickFix a month ago (http://www.seeclickfix.com/issues/9603.html) and over 133 citizens have joined the conversation to voice concern over the significant public safety issue that has arisen.
Surfing through the comments provides insight into the ways that SeeClickFix can be used to rally support around an issue and engage with government. Several citizens have posted contact information for the New Haven Police Department and Mayor’s office. Others have suggested that citizens form neighborhood watches and attend the Mayor’s open house this evening en masse to discuss the issue. Email alerts have been sent to the Mayor’s office, the Downtown-Wooster Square Management Team, the Downtown-Wooster Square Policing District, and the New Haven Police Department.
And the collective action is beginning to have an impact. Wes on Wooster wrote:
I emailed Mike Piscitelli this afternoon and soon got a return call. He was very supportive and assured me that a number of departments are aware and working on the situation. He also said that a few suspects have just been caught.
I hope that everyone will show up at the neighborhood meeting on the 16th. In the meantime, I hope the NHPD will station a patrol car or unmarked during the evening hours to curtail this dangerous criminal activity.
After an email alert was sent to Alderman Smart’s office, he has jumped into the conversation, acknowledging that the muggings pose a serious public safety issue and that resolution is top on his list of priorities. The Alderman has already contacted the City Engineer to advocate for increased lighting in the neighborhood that will help mitigate the problem in the long-run.
The Wooster Square Block Watch has been intensely involved in advocating for lighting in the area, using SeeClickFix as a tool for rallying support. According to The New Haven Independent, their voices are being heard—the group has a meeting with Traffic Chief Mike Piscitelli and other city officials scheduled for Dec. 16th.
It is amazing to see the positive feedback loop that is being created by the interaction between SeeClickFix and local media outlets in New Haven. Issues are being uploaded on SeeClickFix, The New Haven Independent and The New Haven Register are then jumping onto the thread to source stories, the stories are being used as rallying cries on SeeClickFix to gather support to have the problem fixed, and the increased citizen participation is being conveyed to government officials via email. With coverage on the major news sites, citizens then become more aware of the fact that they have a platform for voicing their concerns to local government officials—and that the officials are actually listening.
As Plato said, “the city is what it is because our citizens are what they are.” When the citizens are vocal, action will follow. Pretty powerful stuff.
-Post Written by Jeniffer McFadden
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