Do you know your neighbor? Chances are, if you live in the Las Vegas metropolitan area, you don't, and it's not unusual.
Mother Teresa was quoted as saying, "I want you to be concerned about your next-door neighbor. Do you know your next-door neighbor?"
That might be a good question for Valley residents. And if you answered no, the reason may be right outside your door.
Theories as to why few people know their Las Vegas neighbors include everything from the fact that people work odd shifts in this 24-hour town to our city being highly transient.
"When you live in a transient neighborhood and you have a transient population, people don't make neighborly connections like they would in a more stable environment," said UNLV sociology professor Christie Batson.
Sociologists such as Batson have a theory called architectural sociology. It suggests the way homes are built have an influence on social interaction.
"So that means squeezing a lot of houses into small lots, and it also means an architectural design in many cases that doesn't facilitate the flow of people," UNLV sociology professor Robert Futrell said.
In 2010, UNLV professors conducted a survey of neighborhoods and people living throughout the Valley. They found that communities built after the construction boom of the 1990s include narrow streets, concrete walls, short driveways and few front porches. All of these things impede social interaction.
"While many developers have tried to create these master-planned communities to be high-functioning, high-interacting neighborhoods, many of them are not working that way," Batson said.
Professors point to neighborhoods with short driveways as an example. People drive up to their homes, open the garage and drive in without talking to anyone.
"Of course, this compromises the ability to meet and run into, in happenstance, your neighbors in ways that might facilitate a lot of communication," Futrell said.
Many homes in the southwestern Las Vegas master-planned community Mountain's Edge are constructed in such a manner. People living there have noticed a lack of neighborliness.
"It's harder to play out front with the kids just because of people speeding down the roads. It's hard to watch them there," Mountain's Edge resident Travis Romney said.
"I think we all start to get in our little cocoon and get self-absorbed," Mountain's Edge resident Sundee Vance added.
Builders have installed pocket or regional parks for people to go to, but that may not be the solution, according to Futrell.
"[There's] less opportunity in the immediate surroundings of one's houses and the houses around it that foster those deeper relationships than just a nod or a wave," Futrell said.
In older Las Vegas neighborhoods, front yards are common, gates and concrete less common, and parks are adjacent to streets.
"Oh, I totally believe it because we lived in a townhouse and condo before here, and we didn't really know anyone. Here they have two parks within walking distance. That made a big difference. That's partly why we bought here," said Jonathan Synold, who recently purchased a home in an older Las Vegas neighborhood.
UNLV's study also found Valley residents view residential interaction as an important aspect of quality of life.
"People really want to know their neighbors, but they don't," Futrell said.
So what can you do? Take a walk, stop and talk to people outside. You can spend more time in your front yard, such as it is, especially if you have kids, as children are a social lubricant.
You might even consider hosting a block party, potluck or barbecue. Even if people don't attend, the invitation will open communication.
Also, bring your neighbor a gift such as baked goods or a bottle of wine to break the ice. Experts say the ball is in your court. Make the first move and you could turn your block into a comfort zone.
The UNLV study found age-restricted retirement communities report the highest levels of attachment and most neighborliness.
A lot of that can be attributed to built-in community social activities and the fact that residents all grew up in a time when everyone knew their neighbors.
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