Wednesday, November 23, 2005

can you drink your way to a safer neighborhood?

the west coast blog muse alerts me to a seattle times story on crime and community. residents of the seattle south park neighborhood were upset about the putatively seedy county line bar and the drug sales and prostitution that surrounded it. rather than mobilize against the bar, however, they actually started drinking there. interesting idea, right? criminologists generally believe that even infrequent and informal neighboring can help reduce crime. in this case, residents are doing their neighboring on-site during community happy hours every monday.

if we are to believe the story, such meetings have coincided with crime reductions in the area. an earlier post-intelligencer story was more pessimistic, but featured this quote from organizer joel clement:

"It was time to show the proprietors that there's an upside to that trend," he said. "My theory is, crime tends to migrate toward sociocultural vacuums. So let's fill the vacuum. And drinking a beer is not a lot of work on anybody's part."

i like the idea of at least attempting reintegrative rather stigmatizing sanctions -- whether for individuals, bars, or other community institutions. my guess is that some of the worst stereotypes have likely been dispelled by the practice. nothing comes for free, of course, as "sociocultural vacuums" are in the eye of the beholder. most worrisome, seattle may have lost a great dive bar in the process. i'm guessing that the county line will have to bring in a golden tee golf machine, ferns, and heirloom balsamic goat cheese salads to keep the upscale residents coming back.

[photos by karen ducey in seattle post-intelligencer story]

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