I heard an interesting item on NPR during my commute to the office this morning titled “Growing An Urban Neighborhood, One Store At A Time.”
It focused on a low-income area, Columbia Heights in Washington, D.C., and how it is working to attract businesses. One storeowner interviewed talked about opening a cellphone store a year ago on one of the area's crime-ridden streets. His shop also offers other goods that his customers want and need and that’s why he has been successful, he said.
Here’s what stood out for me, quoting directly from the NPR report:
“If it's that simple, why aren't restaurants and retailers popping up [here]?
“There's more than one answer here, but what it often boils down to is two words: bulletproof glass. Because for businesses, that often means two things: actual crime and the perception of crime.
“Crime is a concern here—Congress Heights had more than 100 violent crimes in the past year. But other trendier nightlife spots in the city have their own crime problems—and don't have the same reputation.
“This leads to the second issue, perception. Bulletproof glass signals to people in the community that the street isn't safe, creating a sort of feedback loop between perceived safety and actual safety.
"It's almost like if you don't have the confidence in your neighborhood to deserve a vibrant street, then you're not going to strive for it," says Heather Arnold, research director for the D.C. planning and design firm Streetsense.
“But [the cellphone store owner] insists that if you get to know your neighbors, the neighborhood will be a safe place to do business.
"I get to know the families. I know from the kids, the grandmothers, the parents. That's why I'm not behind bulletproof glass, whereas a lot of other businesses you go into, everyone has bulletproof glass," [the owner] says. "Why? What are you so afraid of?"
Food for thought, no?
First of all, how do customers know the store is protected by bulletproof glass? Are there warning signs posted? Is bulletproof glass a deterrent to crime yet also a deterrent to customers? What do you think is the answer?
I don’t live in a crime-ridden neighborhood, but I can’t help thinking, in my own humble opinion, that I wouldn’t be turned off if my local retailers had bullet-proof glass in place. I’d also like them to have storefront bollards to prevent the ever-increasing incidences of ram-raids.
Whatever safety measures retailers take is a plus, in my opinion. Is that just because I don’t live in a crime-ridden neighborhood?
What do you think? I look forward to hearing your answers.