Know your neighbors. Ask any policeman, vandal or burglar how you can best combat crime in your neighborhood, and most likely that will be the answer.
Of course, knowing your neighbors isn't always easy. Years ago, I knew almost everyone because we all cheered together at our kids' swim meets. We used to have a neighborhood club that organized social events. But the kids grew up, old friends moved away, strangers moved in and we just don't know each other like we used to.
There are things neighbors can do, though, even without a swim team or a homeowners association to bring them together on a regular basis. One of the best ways I found for meeting neighbors was working at the polls. Unfortunately, there aren't many job openings there, and unfortunately, not everyone votes.
So sometimes you just need to get out on the street. Going door-to-door collecting e-mail addresses for "e-lerts" about what's happening in the neighborhood takes some effort, but it goes a long way to keep everyone informed, even if they don't even know each other. And you might be surprised, like I was, to meet people who tell you they couldn't care less about their neighbors. But don't despair. At least now you know something about them.
Anything that makes the neighborhood look unified might convince those passing through that you all know each other. Posting a sign at the entryway every month announcing a neighborhood workday - even if no one shows up - at least makes it look like you all get together. Distributing red bows and requesting that everyone attach them to their mailbox for Christmas visually pulls the neighborhood together. And for the really ambitious, encouraging everyone to display purple Relay for Life bows can make a real statement to passersby.
For graduation, instead of parents trying to outdo each other with flashy signs, what a better message it sends if all the kids' names are on one banner, showing that the neighbors share their joy for all their kids.
But if none of these suggestions seem feasible, then just walk. I mean walk around the neighborhood. See who else is walking. See which cars go with which houses and which cars go with which kids. At least increase your own awareness of who your neighbors are.
If you haven't the time or the energy to walk, then, thanks to Scan Gwinnett, www.scangwinnett.com, you can sit at your computer and receive daily e-mail updates on your neighbors. Scan Gwinnett reports anyone in your neighborhood (by ZIP code) who has been taken to the Gwinnett County Jail or added to the Georgia Sex Offender Registry. Information includes name, photo, address and charges.
And you might be surprised, like I was, to meet some of your neighbors there.
Susan Larson is a Lilburn resident. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.