Safe Haven decals have fostered neighborhood safety for decades

safe haven

From the Parents League of New York.

safe-heaven-decalsOn my way into my local dry cleaners in Park Slope, Brooklyn, I noticed a decal on the door that I had never given much thought to before. In a the traditional cluster of credit card decals was a bright yellow square emblazoned with the words “Safe Haven” in bold, black letters and a small emblem for the Parents League of New York.

If you live in New York City, you may have seen Safe Haven stickers at some of the businesses in your neighborhood. But if you don’t have a child, you may not know much about them. I didn’t, so I reached out to the Parents League of New York to learn more.

The origins of the Safe Haven program

Even New York transplants are familiar with the discourse surrounding 1970s New York City. It was gritty, dangerous, and though nostalgia for the days of the unsanitized, pre-Giuliani days still lingers, the fact was that police presence was inadequate, and parents were rightfully concerned about their children walking to and from school.

In 1971, the Parents League of New York founded the Safe Haven program to spread awareness of street safety among students, parents and teachers, and to reduce the occurrence of traffic accidents and personal attacks.

How was the Safe Haven Program initially organized?

As a part of a safety campaign, the Parents League of New York called on volunteers to patrol the east side of Manhattan between 86th and 96th streets. These volunteers walked an assigned route in the mornings and in the afternoons. They dropped off daily reports at local stores to be picked up later and read by the police. Many of these stores agreed to provide a “safe haven” to any child who was walking home alone. The Parents League gave these merchants the brightly-colored Safe Haven decal to display in their windows so that kids would know where to find a helpful adult. When other routes were added as a part of the safety campaign, more stickers were distributed.

How are businesses recruited today?

According to the co-chair of the Safe Haven program, Meegan Insley, businesses are recruited to the program on an ongoing basis. Volunteers have canvassed the Upper East Side and are in the process of expanding the program to other neighborhoods in Manhattan and the outer boroughs.

Business owners interested in becoming a part of the Safe Haven Program are encouraged to contact the Parents League of New York at

Do these decals work?

The fact that, after more than 30 years, Safe Haven decals still adorn shop windows should tell you that the program is a welcome addition to neighborhoods. The efforts of the Parents League of New York have also been successful enough to inspire other parent groups and even universities to adopt similar programs.

I remember being told to look for decals similar to the yellow Safe Haven decals on my first week in New York City as a freshman in college, and while I never needed to seek one out, I felt safer just knowing they were there.


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