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Red and Green

I love so many things about the holidays: traditions, giving, special food, spending time with family… For a lot of people connected to the Sandy Hook Elementary massacre, the holidays will have

I love so many things about the holidays: traditions, giving, special food, spending time with family… For a lot of people connected to the Sandy Hook Elementary massacre, the holidays will have another association from this year forward. Whenever their family meets, there will be a void. Losing a family member is like that. It’s never quite the same without them.

Here in Renton, people are reviving old political arguments about gun control and health care. They are telling one another to hug their children tightly, and remember the good that is in the world. In times like these, things like that feel important. However, in acknowledging Connecticut’s monumental loss, are we forgetting all our Renton neighbors whose holidays are forever changed because of incidents of fatal violence this year in Renton?

I know that problems like violent crime rarely have one cause, and therefore don’t have a single simple solution. What I do know is that you have to start somewhere. You have to take the next step first.

A randomized controlled trial published in August by the journal, Injury Prevention, suggests that “greening” empty lots results in reduced violence in areas surrounding the lots. It makes sense to me. When trash lays around, and weeds go unchecked it says to passers-by, “No one cares about this area. No one will see …” Crime thrives in dark, hidden, abandoned areas. On the other hand, another article published in the American Journal of Epidemiology says that green spaces are shown to reduce violent crime in the surrounding area, and reduce stress and allow for more exercise for those who live and work in the area.

What would change if we picked up trash, and planted some grass and trees in empty lots? Would people feel safer in Downtown Renton if it looked more “cared for”? Would more people begin to care about Renton because Renton looked more cared for? (?!?) Would crime rates go down in Renton because more people were out walking and enjoying empty lots-turned-pocket-parks, gardens, and other beautiful public spaces? We will never know until we try.

Would you like to be involved in a discussion about creating pocket parks and other  improvements around Renton? There are lots of great places to get involved. The City of Renton’s Neighborhood Program provides grants to various neighborhood associations for improving of their specific neighborhood. The brand new Fixing Renton Forum is an online community dedicated to facilitating discussion about improving Renton’s outlook starting at a grassroots level. As a follow up to last week’s Fixing the Future film screening and community forum event, a community meeting is scheduled for January 19th at 1pm at Blossom Vegetarian.

(Originally published at the Rely On Renton blog.)

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Ian Liddle December 19, 2012 at 09:05 PM
Hi Pauline, Thanks for reading and commenting. I understand your frustration. I live right across from Highlands Elementary, as well! Nice to meet you, neighbor! My post specifically had to do with empty or abandoned lots, not with occupied ones. With unkempt occupied lots, it's tempting to assume that people are just lazy or don't care, but do you know this is the case? Perhaps the occupant is disabled. Maybe they have they fear being out of doors. Maybe they're just overwhelmed, or don't care, because no one has shown them care. If you see a lot of trash in someone's yard, there are a couple things you can do. One is to gather some neighbors together for a clean up day. Volunteers can go door to door and offer to pick up litter, or do other small tasks. You do this not because the recipient deserves it, but because it reflects the good in YOU. In this neighborhood, I have watched kids on the way to school dropping trash on the street. I've been witness to this problem. I think it could be a job for Sunset Neighborhood Association. Do you know about Sunset Neighborhood Association? I linked the neighborhood program in my post. Here is the Facebook group for Sunset Neighborhood Association: http://www.facebook.com/SunsetNeighborhoodAssociationRentonWa I will start this discussion on that page, to see what kind of response we might be able to get.

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