What makes a safe street, let alone a safe neighborhood? Who takes ownership of that safety and makes that feeling of safety constant? Whose eyes are responsible for the street, and more importantly the grey areas?
These are just a few questions that came up in our class after reading a chapter from Jane Jacobs novel, The Death and Life of Great American Cities. To be honest, I had never thought twice about any of these themes. As someone who lives in the heart of Manhattan, I had never come close to Jane Jacob’s complex themes of how safety within neighborhoods, especially cities, is formed and sustained. Thus, I felt very naïve and uneducated.
My ignorance was quite evident when I had originally believed that it was solely a policeman’s job to keep the street safe. Jacobs says on page 32, “No amount of police can enforce civilization where the normal, casual enforcement of it has broken down” This statement registered with me because a relationship takes two people. In this case, the civilians in the neighborhood, and then the police both need to respect one another to enforce order. In the United States, the respect between these two groups of people has been severely lost, and we’ve seen the horrible consequences of this as seen in Saint Louis and other cities. In Perugia though, it is evident that the police and people respect one another. When referring specifically to Borgo Bello, I think that there is a stronger relationship than in the past because there is little or no destruction happening to the association’s efforts to improve the neighborhood, such as the paintings that I hinted on in my first blog post.
When diving deeper into this idea that the police are not the only people responsible for the street, Jacob’s made me question who were the other eyes then taking ownership of the street. In Borgo Bello it seemed that the eyes were of people who worked in the bars and shops along the streets. In order to make a more safe environment, and have more sets of eyes, it’s important to have more lighting, and even more people out in the neighborhood. Therefore making the streets lively for a larger portion of the day is imperative. When comparing this back to my life in Manhattan, the eyes on those streets are also those of the shopkeepers, but more importantly the doormen of the apartment buildings, and companies.
I’m still contemplating these questions regarding street safety, but I really enjoyed Jane Jacob’s chapter. She made me question my own thoughts about my home city, and also the deeper changes that need to occur in a place like Borto Bello, or any neighborhood to create a safe environment