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Safety meetings go well

Andy Bourelle

The University of Nevada’s Cooperative Extension’s Neighborhood Safety meetings this month turned out to be a success, according to Extension Educator Steve Lewis.

Nine meetings were held from Nov. 5 through Nov. 20, and Lewis said as many as 20 to 40 people attended some meetings while nine to 10 attended others. The Minden/Gardnerville meeting was the exception, with no attendees.

At the meetings, residents were asked to break into groups and brainstorm ideas on how to make changes and improve in those areas. From each group, Lewis has a contact person he will get in touch with in January to follow up on the status of the projects – if any changes have been made, if residents need more help, etc.

What kind of changes result from the meeting depend largely on the neighborhood residents, but Lewis said he is hopeful some of the groups will use what was learned at the meetings.

“I hope to see about one to three neighborhood groups pick up the ball and run with it,” Lewis said, “and affect a positive change in their neighborhoods. I hope that acts as a snowball effect, and people see this type of plan actually will work.”

Case studies will be written up, based on the completed projects. Many of the neighborhoods identified the same problem areas, and Lewis said he hoped plans that worked for one neighborhood could be shared by other neighborhoods, to “kind of network with others working on the same project.”

The Family Support Council, Partnership of Community Services and the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office helped at the meetings, and Lewis said he thought residents who attended learned a lot.

“We had excellent participation,” Lewis said. “I think they got quite a bit out of it.”

The meetings resulted from a study of neighborhood safety done by the cooperative extension. The study allowed residents to rate their neighborhood’s safety as well as identify areas which they thought were a major concern. From the study, the cooperative extension was able to make top-10 lists of what people felt was most safe and unsafe in their neighborhoods as well as lists for Douglas County as a whole.

Some of the top-10 characteristics which made residents feel the most safe included rural atmosphere, caliber of paid and volunteer firefighters, the 9-1-1 emergency system and family values. Some of the conditions which made residents feel unsafe throughout the county included the number of unsafe drivers, annoying or unwanted phone calls, presence of strangers and unfamiliar vehicles, and wildfire hazards.

Overall, Lewis said, the study revealed residents felt their neighborhoods were fairly safe. On a scale of one to 10, with 10 being very safe, the nine neighborhoods ranged from 7.2 to 8.3. The average for Douglas County as whole was 7.7 percent.

Lewis said many residents attending the meetings felt they were not sure if they would be able to make a difference.

“Many people were thinking, ‘Who am I to make a difference?'” Lewis said. “‘How can we affect change?'”

Following through with the projects established at the meetings is one way to increase residents’ confidence in their ability to make a positive difference, Lewis said. He said he was looking forward to continuing to work regarding neighborhood safety.

“I think we will work out a couple of case studies (from the neighborhood groups),” Lewis said, “we can use as examples which other neighborhoods can implement.”