This study of youths’ perceptions of neighborhood safety in a “hot spot” neighborhood in Boston found a need to address obstacles to safety, improve relationships, and further investigate the cultural dimensions of youth perceptions of neighborhood safety.
The central objective of the present study is to contextualize youths’ perception of neighborhood safety from a youth-centered perspective of native born and immigrant youth living in a police-defined ‘hot spot’ neighborhood in Boston, U.S.A. Study findings point to the need to address system-level barriers to safety, improve relationships among residents, youth, and police and to further investigate the cultural dimensions of youth perceptions of neighborhood safety. Using the concept of street efficacy and lifestyles-routine activities theories, focus groups were conducted with teens, and photovoice was used to elaborate on perceptions. Youth described neighborhood offenders, capable guardians, and steps they took to reduce themselves as targets, consistent with lifestyles-routine activities theories. Results showed that although youth were aware of violence and victimization in their neighborhood, they displayed high street efficacy, or confidence, in the way they discussed their daily routines and navigated their lives. Youth generally felt they had the power to stay safe, but there were cultural dimensions to safety. Youth also described a nuanced relationship with police depending on situational context as well as personal and vicarious experiences. (Published Abstract Provided)