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November is National Crime Prevention and Community Safety month, and the Canada Safety Council advises you, and all Canadians to get to know your neighbours better. By building stronger communities, we build safer communities.

Many people stick to themselves, but creating bonds with your neighbours can be very beneficial if there’s ever a problem. Neighbours can be great friends, and be there when you need them most. They can help you take in your mail when you are away, or call the police if they notice any suspicious activity on your property.

While you may not be able to change the neighborhood in which you live, you can change the experience you have in your own neighborhood by getting more involved with those around you and taking pride in the area in which you live.

We’re all busy, and getting to know people in your neighbourhood takes time. So mix your everyday activities with ones that promote introductions. For example, say “hello” to neighbours when the opportunity presents itself. Sit on your front porch to read or take up gardening. If you live in an apartment, spend more time on your balcony or a common space near your building. Being outside naturally leads to conversations with those arriving home or leaving. Rebuilding social ties, leads to stronger community bonds.

Knowing the people around you can also bring a sense of security. If you need something—whether it’s a cup of sugar when you’re baking cookies, or someone to call the police if they see someone lurking outside your home—it’s nice to know you can depend on those around you and they can depend on you.

Set-up regular community activities in your neighbourhood.

Regular community activities can help strengthen neighbourhoods and the people in them. Organizing a Block Party, for example, is a great and fun way to get to know your neighbours, and get the whole community involved. It will allow you to meet new neighbours, as well as re-establish old friendships. By having a sense of belonging within your community, it will encourage you and your neighbours to look after each other and the neighbourhood.

Start a Neighbourhood Watch program

Neighbourhood Watch is a program to help neighbours watch out for neighbours. The program thrives on cooperation. By simply getting to know the neighbours around you, you’ll be well positioned to recognize someone or something that’s suspicious. It aims to get citizens involved in discouraging and preventing crime at the local level. The ultimate success of Neighbourhood Watch depends largely on a commitment to cooperate between area residents and the police – and more importantly, between residents themselves.

Your neighbours know who you are, what type of car you drive, and may be the first to notice a suspicious person at your door or window. A police officer patrolling your community may not recognize a stranger in your yard – but your neighbour will.
To find out if a Neighbourhood Watch exists in your neighbourhood or to start a new one, contact your local Community Police Centre. They can provide you with more detailed information, basic start-up assistance and resources.

Problems? Talk to your neighbour

In the event that you are having problems with a neighbour, it is much easier to solve the problem amicably if you know the person, as you may feel more comfortable approaching them. Your neighbour may not even know there is a problem. Give them the benefit of the doubt and see if you can resolve any issues. Neighbours may be able to come to a peaceful solution if they talk to each other about their concerns, without getting a third party involved.

Many people shy away from this approach because they’re afraid of confrontation. To help with this, don’t think of approaching your neighbour as a confrontation. Instead, think of it as a friendly conversation, keeping in mind that your goal isn’t to start a fight, but to explain your concern and see if you both can work something out. Wait until you’re feeling calm to approach your neighbour. Approaching a problem when you are angered may lead to more problems. If you can’t or don’t want to approach your neighbour in person, try writing a letter outlining your concerns instead.

Unfortunately, not all neighbours are reasonable. If a neighbour gets confrontational, don’t fight back; make it clear that you’re not there to argue. Even if you get a negative response, leave the conversation open to a positive solution. For example say, “Think it over. I’d like to try and work it all out.” You will lose nothing by being pleasant. The fact that you chose to try and solve the problem on your own will cast you in a better light if you have to talk to a third party, such as a landlord. Also remember that the person may not acknowledge your point right away, but may change their behavior or address the problem later, once they have thought it over. Keep in mind, that if you have already built a relationship with this person, your concerns may be received much better.