Red and Green

I love so many things about the holidays: traditions, giving, special food, spending time with family… For a lot of people connected to the Sandy Hook Elementary massacre, the holidays will have another association from this year forward. Whenever their family meets, there will be a void. Losing a family member is like that. It’s never quite the same without them.

Here in Renton, people are reviving old political arguments about gun control and health care. They are telling one another to hug their children tightly, and remember the good that is in the world. In times like these, things like that feel important. However, in acknowledging Connecticut’s monumental loss, are we forgetting all our Renton neighbors whose holidays are forever changed because of incidents of fatal violence this year in Renton?

I know that problems like violent crime rarely have one cause, and therefore don’t have a single simple solution. What I do know is that you have to start somewhere. You have to take the next step first.

A randomized controlled trial published in August by the journal, Injury Prevention, suggests that “greening” empty lots results in reduced violence in areas surrounding the lots. It makes sense to me. When trash lays around, and weeds go unchecked it says to passers-by, “No one cares about this area. No one will see …” Crime thrives in dark, hidden, abandoned areas. On the other hand, another article published in the American Journal of Epidemiology says that green spaces are shown to reduce violent crime in the surrounding area, and reduce stress and allow for more exercise for those who live and work in the area.

What would change if we picked up trash, and planted some grass and trees in empty lots? Would people feel safer in Downtown Renton if it looked more “cared for”? Would more people begin to care about Renton because Renton looked more cared for? (?!?) Would crime rates go down in Renton because more people were out walking and enjoying empty lots-turned-pocket-parks, gardens, and other beautiful public spaces? We will never know until we try.

Would you like to be involved in a discussion about creating pocket parks and other  improvements around Renton? There are lots of great places to get involved. The City of Renton’s Neighborhood Program provides grants to various neighborhood associations for improving of their specific neighborhood. The brand new Fixing Renton Forum is an online community dedicated to facilitating discussion about improving Renton’s outlook starting at a grassroots level. As a follow up to last week’s Fixing the Future film screening and community forum event, a community meeting is scheduled for January 19th at 1pm at Blossom Vegetarian.

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