South Bend, Indiana has known a long and contentious history since its incorporation in 1865. Beginning as an industrial center along the river, its economy has seen more than its fair share of ups and downs. The city began as an industrial center, experiencing its largest population boom when it was chosen as the cite of a Studebaker plant in 1923. This decision was made primarily based on its location, situated both on the river and mid-way between Detroit and Chicago by rail. The city’s population declined rapidly when the heavy industry that had helped to fuel its economy packed up and left town after World War II. Today the city’s economy is fueled primarily by the health care and education sectors, although recent efforts at revitalization through redeveloping the old Studebaker plant have led to its first population increase in fifty years. Although progress is slowly being made toward redeveloping long-abandoned industrial complexes and housing facilities, residents of South Bend have a long road ahead of them. Much of the city still lies abandoned. One step along this road has been taken by the Vacant and Abandoned Properties Initiative, passed just three years ago. This initiative seeks to renovate, repair, or demolish abandoned homes in the area, and has already taken care of 828 problem houses since its inception. The city’s lost industry and numerous abandoned structures are one contributing factor in its remarkably high rates of crime. South Bend has the dubious honor of having one of the highest crime rates in the country, not just in comparison to other cities its own size, but when compared to all populations nationally. One in 19 residents becomes a victim of some form of crime, and the city’s murder rates are through the roof. One in 146 residents will become a victim of some form of violent crime, and 17 victims were murdered last year alone. When it comes to property crime, the city does not fare any better. One in 21 residents falls victim to burglary, theft, arson, or other forms of property crime each year. These numbers can easily be explained when considering the state of the economy and proliferation of abandoned properties. Understanding this connection can be very helpful to homeowners in making important decisions about their families’ safety. In addition to being unsightly, vacant and improperly maintained properties can offer refuge for criminals. Often drug dealers, burglars, and other criminals take advantage of both the empty space and the attitude it espouses in surrounding neighborhoods to engage in further illegal activities. Numerous abandoned properties are a sure sign that a neighborhood has deteriorated, as has police and community control. The Broken Window theory of policing directly addresses this issue by insisting that allowing vacant houses to stand abandoned welcomes in illegal activity, in turn increasing the number of both property crimes and violent crimes in the area. Measures such as the Vacant and Abandoned Properties Initiative and the Smart Street Initiative, which takes a similar aim toward safety on the roads, have already shown limited success. The population is beginning slowly to increase, as more industry returns to the city, and locals become more empowered in their fight against the crime that plagues the city. Recently it was even ranked in the top 40 best real estate markets specifically for business. The Smart+Connected Communities Institute even showcased it as one of the top 10 cities in the world at reinventing itself through the influx of technology and modern industry. For life-long residents and transplants looking to get in early on the city’s potential upcoming tech boom, revitalizing the city is a worthwhile effort. In addition to being home to several colleges and universities, including the prestigious Notre Dame, the area also boasts a host of museums, theaters, and galleries. This emphasis on the arts helps to give the city it’s politically and culturally progressive air, particularly when compared to the rest of the state. Those considering a move should note that crime rates across South Bend are not uniform. Closer to downtown, rates of both violent and property crime are higher. Further to the west and south, neighborhoods become almost rural, and rates of crime decrease. It’s important to take a look around the neighborhood before deciding what security measures should be taken. If there are numerous abandoned houses, lawns grown up with grass, and legitimate neighbors are few and far between, any inhabited properties will face significant danger. For those with a lot to lose, installing a full security system with monitored video feeds is probably the best way to go. Those who can’t afford extensive security systems should keep in mind that even a wireless motion-sensor door alarm is certainly better than nothing. Also, remember that no amount of technology will replace amicable relations with any existing neighbors. Even an alarm system monitored by an external company that can call appropriate authorities immediately will not prevent the initial break-in from occurring.
Many burglars, even upon hearing alarms go off, will still attempt to steal whatever is immediately available before the police are able to arrive. On the other hand, a simple door alarm can be more helpful if the surrounding community is one that will take active steps toward apprehending a suspicious character. It is, however, still advisable to have at least an audible alarm that can alert anyone around to the threat. While extensive security systems with outdoor cameras and motion-sensor driveway lights may, if anything, alienate some of the surrounding neighbors, a simple door alarm will be unlikely to have the same effect.