AS A RESIDENT of Olde Kensington, I've been extremely shaken by the murder of Sabina Rose O'Donnell. I wish her family and friends strength and hope our community is able to remain united through this tragedy.

Living a block from the site of the murder, my immediate reaction was to install new locks, grate up my windows, upgrade my alarm system, get a larger dog, carry a small weapon and otherwise watch my back. In other words, create a fortress for myself. I have very rarely felt unsafe in my community, but an event like this shakes me to the core.

I know my reaction must be temporary. I know I cannot live in fear.

And as a community development professional, I also know that locking myself inside not only puts me more at risk, but puts our entire community at risk. I feel safe in my community because I know my neighbors. Some by name, others because they pass as I'm sitting on my step.

I KNOW THAT when we have extended relationships in our neighborhood, we are more likely to watch out for each other and more likely to know when something is wrong.

I also know that if my neighbors know me, they'll feel safer when I walk by their homes or when their children play on my block.

This is a community that I want to live in. One where neighbors know each other. Where neighbors feel safe sitting outside. Where neighbors can let their children walk to the park on the corner.

In the wake of this tragedy, I hope that we can all work together to unite our community and stay strong in its aftermath. I've also experienced firsthand how other actions can be more effective for neighborhood safety than shutting ourselves in.

Here are just a few:

1. Install lighting on the front of your home that turns on automatically at night. Use a CFL or LED bulb to save money and energy.

2. If you don't know your neighbors, knock on their door and introduce yourself. You'll learn a lot about what's happening around you. You'll begin to know if there's something unusual happening at their home, and they'll know if something looks odd at yours.

3. Take some time to sit out on your front step at night, enjoy the evening, meet your neighbors and let people know there's a block presence.

4. Get some neighbors together and clean that vacant, overgrown lot. If you have a vacant house on your block, throw a block workday and board it up for good this time! Nuisance properties have a way of attracting nuisance activity.

5. Extend your community by volunteering at a local park or event.

6. Be careful. Use the buddy system. Carry a whistle.

7. Finally, call 9-1-1 if you see something.

We have an opportunity to unite in this time of tragedy.

I wish you all continued safety, and look forward to saying hello as I see you sitting on your step.

Shanta Schachter