Here’s a great idea for reducing crime in the city. Build more open spaces, more coffee shops and above all, more libraries. Why? Because, as Eric Klinenberg writes in his book, Palaces for People, with so many eyes on the scene, these areas become safer places. (“Come Together…” by Gary Drevitch, Psychology Today, Sept/Oct. 2018, pg. 42.)
Other reasons exist to promote public spaces. One is to allow people from all walks of life to interact with each other. These spaces entice us to get out of our homes and talk to our neighbors.
Libraries are especially important for the wellbeing of a community. There, everyone is welcome. A person can escape a cloudburst, enjoy a comfortable chair and read any book or publication for free. They also provide amenities like computers and toilets. No one will ask to see a membership card, and a man in a tattered coat will be treated with the same courtesy as the man in a Brooks Brothers suit. As one New York City librarian admits, “You have to try very, very hard to get kicked out of this library.” (Ibid pg. 42.)
On the internet, people share their views, of course. Usually, they end up in their homophily, communicating with people who think as they do. Public spaces can provide face-to-face interaction with people who hold different points of view. That’s a plus, says writer Gary Drevitch. (Ibid pg. 41.)
Andrew Carnegie must have felt the same as Drevitch. He spent his fortune building libraries throughout the country. Not content to create utilitarian structures, he made them beautiful – clean, well-lighted spaces, where a poor man could sit beside a king in safety and comfort.
The moral of the story? If we want to fight crime, let us build fewer jails and more libraries.