Like many civic problems, this one started with the best of intentions.

Urban planners looking to create a quiet neighborhood in the heart of the city designed the Kennedy Park housing project with limited access for cars, disrupting the street grid pattern to cut back on through traffic.

What the streetscape created, however, is a quiet, private place in which people who are so inclined feel safe when they break the law.

And the limited number of access routes means that by the time police can respond to a complaint, the people who were the subjects of the complaint know that the police are coming and can be long gone.

This year, city planners and police are working together to do something about this vexing problem.

Using Community Development Block Grants and private donations, the city is going to improve two pedestrian paths that penetrate Kennedy Park by adding lighting and landscaping. It will also make the paths wide enough for a police cruiser to use for emergency access.

Known in planning circles as “defensible space” or “crime prevention through environmental design,” the changes are based on an old, well-known principle: People are less likely to commit a crime if they think they’re being watched.

Adding to the number of eyes that scan a street and see what’s going on makes the streets safer. More traffic doesn’t always mean more danger.

These small changes in Kennedy Park should improve the quality of life for the law-abiding people who live there and make life more difficult for the few law-breakers.

It is a civic improvement that is long overdue.


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