The town I grew up in is far from being a big city. With less than 30,000 people it is difficult to avoid people you know. Having lived in my small suburban town my entire life, I feel a strong sense of safety and security when traveling around town. My college is located in the small city of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. While I am more than comfortable roaming around the campus, my feelings change once I step foot into downtown. As a freshman I was warned about going off campus, walking the streets late at night, and informed that it was best to travel with a group of people. Before going to school in a small city, I have never taken the time to think about what makes city neighborhoods feel safe or secure.
In this week’s reading, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, Jane Jacobs tries to pinpoint what makes a city safe. Jacobs mentions three main qualities that are necessary for a city to have in order to be successful. The first quality is the distinction between public and private properties. Second, “there must be eyes upon the streets”. There is no mention of these eyes being police officers, the idea being that the citizens need to look out for one another. Lastly, the sidewalks must be continuously used by community members.
In Perugia all three of these qualities can be proven true. Private spaces are clearly marked with signs or locked doors. The second and third qualities go hand-in-hand. The eyes on the street can be seen as those who sit on the steps all hours of the day and watch people walk by. However when I thought about Lancaster, only one quality was represented. While there is a distinction between public and private areas, there are no eyes on the street, and the sidewalks are not continuously used by the community. Before this reading I was never able to put into words why I did not always feel safe in Lancaster. Most people just stay in their homes while others harass those walking on the sidewalk because other people are not around.
I am so happy to be spending my semester abroad in a small town like Perugia.