Here in Auburn Bay we have a Facebook Page called the Auburn Bay Blockwatch. I liked the page a while ago, and I’ve gotten a lot of valuable information from it. Last week, a resident in Auburn Bay posted a warning to the community that started with the titular line of this blog: “My daughter was almost taken yesterday.” She noted in her post that after her daughter got off the bus, a woman grabbed her child’s hand and just started walking away, essentially dragging this young girl with her. Eventually the little girl was able to break free and run home, but the situation was still terrifying to say the least.
The response from the community was overwhelming on the Facebook page. It started out with concerned moms in Auburn Bay, offering words of support, but slowly morphed into concerned moms wanting to do something more. There was a mood of, “We’re not gonna take this,” in the air. One of the ladies mentioned to the poster of the thread that her house was right by the bus stop where the girl was almost taken, and that the young girl could feel free to run to her house should anything ever give her such a spook again. This birthed the idea that perhaps there could be such “Safe Houses” in Auburn Bay where kids could feel safe to run to should anything make them feel unsafe or uncomfortable---something sort of like the old Block Parent model.
A group of brave mamma bears in Auburn Bay decided---by continuing to respond to the same original thread---to have a meeting where we could float this idea of “Safe Houses” in Auburn Bay. One very generous lady volunteered to host the evening at her home on Autumn Close. It was at this meeting where we met and shared our concerns. One of the very studious ladies of the group invited the President, Empress of the Realm, and Chairman of the Lake to attend, Mrs. Carla Obuck. She would be a voice for the Community Association. Another Auburn Bay mommy invited two ladies from the “Building Safe Communities” team to come and lend us some ideas. Building Safe Communities is a city-funded initiative which focuses on revitalizing communities and keeping them safe.
Before the meeting, I think a lot of us already knew that a full Block Parent model could not work, because of liability issues. Our suspicions were confirmed when the ladies from Building Safe Communities told us about the breakdown of the Block Parent model.
In this day and age, anyone can go online and print off a picture of the block parent sign and place it in their window. Also, receiving a sign the legit way would require background checks etc. It also doesn’t guarantee that people in the home besides the approved parent are safe people. To be honest, I don’t really care about background checks or making it through a program. I wouldn’t trust someone with my child unless I knew them. Someone can have all the paperwork in the world, but in my estimation, nothing can beat looking into their eyes, talking with them, and finding out more about who they are.
I, personally, have 3 neighbours that I would trust in a heartbeat with any of my kids: Shannon, Mel, and Erin. I don’t need a background check to tell me that these are fine, upstanding women. I’ve been in their house; I’ve met their sensational children, and I’ve talked to them and to their husbands. I appreciate my relationship with each one of them. Mel always has butter when I run out. Shannon’s husband is around when my hubby is gone and I need washer fluid in the car or a tough jar to be opened.
If we want to change our community, we can’t really do it through the law or through a new system which requires a lot of legal legwork. No matter how many different rules and regulations we make, there will always be a loophole, or a pervert who sneaks up through the ranks. As mothers, I think we are the best judge of character. I would sooner trust one of these lovely ladies on my street than I would someone who had a sign. If we want to feel safe, it will be by relationship. One of my three ladies left her garage door open when she left for vacation. Clint and I noticed immediately and we texted her right away to see if she did it on purpose. Of course she had not, so we closed the door for her! There are many examples of this that many women in Auburn Bay can share with us all. But for me, knowing 3 people well on my street is probably not good enough. I should be able to identify more people, know their kids, and be aware when there is someone on the street whom I don’t recognize. Our street has had block parties for 3 or four years now. Perhaps a block party isn’t enough. It’s a great start, but if we want to feel free to let our kids walk to the park, ride their bikes in our cul-de-sacs, and even walk home safe from the bus, we’ll need to band together a little more.
The solution, it seems, is to know your neighbours. We had a few ideas along this vein. One of the ideas, which I personally really liked, was to take the time to fill out a form like this one below. (They handed one like this out at the meeting, but I didn’t take one home, so I just made one for you all to print off and use. Just click the image below to print off your own copy).
The lady from Building Safe Communities brought up a great point: if you saw something strange happening in your backyard neighbour’s yard, would you even know the address so you could call in the activity to the police? I think a great start is to take the time, and go to your neighbour’s doorstep and fill out this form---maybe bring copies with you so you can give them a copy as you go to get their information. If they then take copies to their neighbours, we’ll have a whole lot of doorbells ringing, coffees being poured, and kids on play dates.
I had mentioned that I thought another great idea would be a “Guess Who is Coming to Dinner,” for each street and/or Cul-de-sac. This is where you flyer the cul-de-sac and/or street, and you let them know that there is going to be a “Guess who is Coming to Dinner,” night. You just need one very generous person on the street to volunteer to organize it, and people can sign up to be guests, or hosts. The dinners will take place on a set date, and an hour before the dinner is to start, everyone gets an email blast to let them know which house to go to. The organizer should try to make an effort to sign up families who have children who are roughly the same age and/or sex. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but it gets people in the same house together, breaking bread and talking. More people will wave when they drive by, more people will know the kids that whiz by on bikes, and therefore feel comfortable enough to tell them to get out of the neighbour’s flower beds. J
Other ideas went around as well. For example the Building Safe Communities ladies suggested dragging your BBQ onto your front driveway and cooking there instead of in the back. If people want to join, let them. Have your morning coffee and on your front porch instead of your back porch. If you see one of your neighbours big and pregnant and waddling their kids to the park, bring them a meal or make them cookies, maybe ask when they’re due!
All of these things are good to talk about, but it’s going to take the participation of a few, to make the whole thing go. If one or two people on the street decide to be the lightening rod that makes people talk, things may change in Auburn Bay.( Not that things are so bad here, but wouldn’t it be nice to be the community that criminals are terrified to enter?)We would become known as the community where steely-eyed moms stand on their front porch with rolling pins, watching the community with knowing eyes. OK, maybe that’s a bit idealistic, but you get the picture, right?
One of the things mentioned is that we need to support our Community Association. This is different from the Auburn House. The Auburn House collects your $400(ish) a year and they use it to maintain the look of the community and the lake. The Community Association is an additional $25, and they run the get-to-know you stuff and community-building initiatives. Carla lamented that last year’s turnout for the Amazing Race was less than stellar. I think a great way to start getting to know each other is by giving the financial support to the Association so that they have the resources to plan some of these ideas on a larger scale.
If you’re interested in doing this, just search for Carla Obuck on Facebook and write something like this:
Dear Empress of the Realm and Chairman of the Lake,
How do I give you $25?
Concerned Auburn Bay Mommy
OK, ladies (and gentleman). These are my ideas. Who has some more? You can comment below. Is there anyone who maybe wants to take up a task for their street, but needs some support? Maybe you have an idea but you need someone to design or deliver flyers. The Building Safe Communities folks mentioned that there are planners, and there are doers. Is there anyone willing to identify themselves as either? Perhaps the most important first step is to contact Carla and ask how you can contribute to the efforts of the association.
The Vanderveen Team
Maxwell South Star Realty
Phone: 403.253.5678 Fax: 403.592.6736