You love the property, but is it in a safe neighbourhood?
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When we live in a safe neighbourhood, we experience less stress, better sleep and a greater sense of freedom. But as house prices soar, the ‘safer’ suburbs are harder to buy into. And according to new Roy Morgan research, safety is a major concern to all of us:
65% of Australians are now ‘security conscious’; 58% feel ‘crime is a growing problem in their community’; 45% feel ‘less safe’ than they used to and 61% believe the ‘fundamental values of our society are under threat’.
So, how can you tell whether you’re going to feel safe in a neighbourhood before buying?
The broken windows theory
The “broken windows” theory had a major influence on American law enforcement in 1982. It argues that crime and disorder in a community are usually linked and was first proposed by a social scientist and a criminologist in an article published in the Atlantic magazine.
“Social psychologists and police officers tend to agree that if a window in a building is broken and is left unrepaired, all the rest of the windows will soon be broken. This is as true in nice neighborhoods as in rundown ones,” they wrote.
The idea is that crime is the result of a lengthier chain of events, which stem from disorder. If disorder is eliminated, serious crimes are less likely to happen.
When you’re considering the safety of a location, look out for those broken windows and unkempt lawns. Because an orderly neighbourhood sends a message that its residents care and are prepared to fight crime.
Your new best friend, the nosy-parker
Every neighbourhood has one. You know, the overly astute (usually elderly) person who knows every going on in the street? But here’s the thing. These curious people are often your knight in shining armour when it comes to fighting crime because they’re the first to notice and report suspicious activity; an unfamiliar car parked across the road, a stranger lurking, a car alarm going off…
So when the neighbours appear to be spying every time you pop in for a viewing, don’t be put off. They may just have their community’s best interests at heart.
An open invitation to burglars
Believe it or not, most burglaries are preventable. A survey conducted in WA by DUMA (Drug Use Monitoring Australia) revealed some interesting insights into what attracts burglars to a home. The biggest motivator was a house that appeared vacant or unoccupied with lights off, rubbish bins left out or mail piled up in the mailbox. And when offenders were asked which factors were most likely to deter them from breaking into a house, their replies were:
- A dog; doesn’t need to be big, just noisy (61.4%)
- A functioning alarm system (49.1%)
- Lights on inside the house (19.3%)
- Security screens on windows and doors (19%)
- High visibility from the road (14%)
- Functioning sensor lights (22.8%)
- Gates (12.3%)
If a house isn’t burglar-proof, it’s an open invitation. And while it’s easy to improve security, some properties are easy targets because of their position and lack of visibility from the street.
Shady people like shady streets
Dark streets not only attract more crime (burglars prefer not to be seen), they’re a little on the creepy side. So if safety’s a concern, you may want to rethink buying in a location with poor lighting. Ask yourself, are there many street lamps? Do residents keep their porch lights on once it’s dark? Does the street look vibrant and lived in?
A conscientious, close-knit neighbourhood provides a sense of belonging, security and support. Neighbours chat on street corners. Kids play. People look after their houses and those of their neighbours when they’re away, putting out their bins and bringing in their mail.
There’s a sense of calm, liberty and togetherness.
Some communities are great at organising local events, parties and extra security initiatives like Neighbourhood Watch.
You can get a sense of the local community spirit by looking in the local paper or online and researching past and future events.
The level of local crime
On average, 1 out of every 40 houses is burgled in Australia each year. Safer suburbs can have burglary rates 3 to 4 times lower than average. The typical burglar lives within 3km of their targeted home because they can more easily get to know the owner’s movements.
Check out websites like RACV (in Victoria) to get a feel for the level of crime in an area. Or, visit the local police station for a chat (although the police tend to see the darkest side of a community and may paint a biased picture!).
A small amount of research could save a lot of heartache
It’s worth investigating a location before buying. Sometimes, the wealthiest neighbourhoods attract trouble – after all, you don’t always know who’s living on your street. For some reason, certain pockets attract more crime than others. And there’s nothing worse than moving into your new home only to discover your street is notorious for burglaries.
We’d love to hear your thoughts. How safe do you feel in your neighbourhood?