DH and I were taking our customary walk down the alley from the rental to transit a couple of weeks ago, and he stopped and said “That’s what I’m afraid of at our place.” It was graffiti, and not the nice stuff, either, just crude tags and initials. But someone had used brown spray paint on nearly all the garage doors along one part of the crescent where we live.
It was plain why they had chosen that particular set of homes. The alley does not face other garages and homes, but rather a line of dense conifers hiding the lane from a very busy street. Further along the crescent where garages face onto a lane flanked by a busy thoroughfare there was little or no graffiti.
Plus the yards along our alley all have high fences and two- or three-car garages, virtually a solid wall all the way along. You can’t see into your neighbour’s yard. What we can glance through the occasional gate are more parked cars on concrete slabs and one rusting collapsed metal shed. It’s like it was built just to accommodate graffiti.
And litter. At one point there were five abandoned sofas mouldering on the boulevard, plus cardboard boxes and discarded stereo equipment. That’s been removed, thank goodness.
These seemingly inconsequential transgressions can actually have a serious effect on the safety of the neighbourhood. Studies have shown that in neighbourhoods with litter and graffiti, people become more disobedient. Some people call it the “broken window” effect. In areas where small “incivilities” are not repaired, like broken windows or graffiti, crime like theft and vandalism goes up.
This is something we all have to watch out for and fight against.
In our laneway neighbourhood the alley is a lot more friendly. Fences are not as high and gates are usually see-through, giving you a glimpse into the yards. There are some lovely gardens that are tenderly cared for. You are likely to see a neighbour out on their deck or in their yard, and interact with them. But I hope that another factor that will lead to a safer and tidier back lane will be….us.
The laneway will be nicely painted and we will have plants by the front door on the lane side. Windows and our deck overlook the lane, which is well-lit. We will put our garbage and compost cans around the garden side of the house so they won’t be visible from the lane. And we hope that will make the alley way more livable.
From an article in Houzz comes proof that just doing some small improvements can have a much larger effect on your surroundings.
Good social behavior spreads, whether we realize it’s influencing us or not. The findings, published by Kees Keizer, a behavior scientist and professor at the University of Groningen, Netherlands, confirm the belief that setting a good example can positively affect others. But this study ventures even further to show that when we observe others caring about society, we end up caring, too.
We hope that there will be no tagging on our pristine new garage door. I think, personally, that graffiti “artists” will be more reluctant to spray paint on someone’s house than they are to deface fences.
It’s also nice to know that having a tidy house is not just its own reward, but benefits the neighbourhood, too.