Fairmount Village residents are taking action to improve safety

Fairmount Village residents are learning to identify neighborhood safety issues and advocate for improvements as part of a new program aimed at reducing crime. The “Safety Initiative” is led by the Consensus Organizing Center at San Diego State University.

The initiative began in January when, Jessica Robinson, assistant director at the Consensus Organizing Center, met with Fairmount Village residents and community leaders to collaborate on the program. Those who were interested in participating committed to spend four days working with crime prevention expert Gregory Saville and engage their neighbors in community problem-solving activities.

Saville, a former police officer with 26 years of experience in crime prevention, believes the best way to tackle crime is by “tapping into the creative genius of neighborhood groups and neighborhood dwellers.” The Safety Initiative does precisely that. Residents take responsibility for their own neighborhood, working with law enforcement and other resources.

After a two-day workshop in April, participants organized in four groups and spent two months working with the community to identify safety issues and develop an action plan. They reconvened before the Fourth of July to share ideas with each other. Their ideas are still in early stages, but offer promise to improve community safety.

One group identified trash and graffiti as a significant problem and proposed enacting an adopt-a-trash-can program to place more receptacles throughout the neighborhood; sponsors would purchase the trash cans and make them available on each block and volunteers would maintain them.

Another group recommended redesigning the intersection of Fairmount Avenue and Wightman Street so it’s more pedestrian-friendly. Their suggestions included: installing a diagonal crosswalk to discourage jaywalking and slowing or eliminating auto traffic on Wightman through the Urban Village.

A third group recommended building a skateboard park because many skateboarders now use the fire road between the ball fields and recreation center. They also advocated increasing the recreation center’s hours as a way to cut down on loitering and drug dealing.

The fourth group performed what Saville calls a “safety audit” in the area surrounding Monroe Clark Middle School to document residents’ observations and feelings about the neighborhood. Saville said safety audits can be more valuable than crime data because residents see things law enforcement doesn’t. The audit revealed that residents believe the area around Monroe Clark is safe during the day but unsafe at night. They cited poor lighting, vandalism, graffiti, trash, and dark alleys. On the positive side, residents said they liked the area and were willing to volunteer their time to improve it.

In the coming months, the Consensus Organizing Center will help residents carry on with the program. They are looking for more resident participation and will be establishing public outreach tools.