Saturday, October 15, 2011

Blue Lights Come to Santa Cruz


For a city whose violent crime history includes four serial killers during the ’70s and early ’80s and enough stabbings in recent years that one guy started a website to track them, it’s difficult to imagine combating violence without the police. But a few community-minded citizens in Santa Cruz are trying.

“I don’t think we are anywhere near a place where we are ready to take care of ourselves without police, but that’s where I’d like to see us get to,” says Wes Modes of the Santa Cruz Community Safety Workgroup, which began meeting last year. “There are lots of things the police have never done well, such as prevention of domestic violence and taking care of people who’ve slipped through the cracks. These are areas in which it is easy for us to make a difference.”

The Blue Light Safety Project is one decentralized, do-it-yourself effort for community safety that the Workshop has come up with, and the concept is simple: Put a blue light bulb on your porch or front window to let people know they are welcome to approach if they need help.

“Female-bodied people or youth walking alone at night, people escaping intimate violence, queer or trans people who’ve been threatened, or elderly people who need a brief rest might feel supported to have a house in their neighborhood where they know they can find a temporary safe space,” says Modes.

This police alternative to community safety is also based on the simple action of getting to know your neighbors.

“I think because we rely on the police we don’t know our neighbors as much,” says Kristen Swig, who recently installed a blue light in the house she shares with several others. “My experiences with the police have not made me feel safer, and I think it’s a common misconception that the police are a symbol of safety.”

The Blue Light Safety Project is similar to light programs used on college campuses across the country, as well as neighborhood watches or “citizen patrol units” that have proven successful in bringing down crime rates in cities like Philadelphia.

more info at

No comments:

Post a Comment