COMA gets OK for Neighborhood Watch signs

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Neighborhood Watch, a traditional crime prevention program, unites residents and law enforcement by attempting to curb criminal activity and bolster community safety, the National Crime Prevention Council contends.

And now, with the support of local government and law enforcement, the benefits of Neighborhood Watch programs could soon be felt in Craig.

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On Tuesday night, the Craig City Council and Craig Police Department gave the Communities Overcoming Meth Abuse group the authorization to begin a pilot program of installing Neighborhood Watch signs in two neighborhoods -- Ridgeview and The Memorial Hospital area.

"That's what it's all about -- keeping neighborhoods safe," COMA chairperson Annette Dunckley said. "It just makes sense."

COMA member Ron Schaef-fer told the council the group would like to eventually add Neighborhood Watch programs in all 12 districts the city is divided into. He said the signs advertising the presence of watch groups would be strategically placed near Ridgeview and TMH neighborhood entries.

He said the signs "attract more attention at entry points."

"I think if we put in too many signs, they lose their (effectiveness)," Schaeffer said.

While COMA's proposal to hang the watch signs from existing street signs doesn't comply with city code, council members said they were willing to overlook the technical violation in exchange for doing what's right.

Placing signs in the neighborhoods has the support of Craig Police Chief Walt Vanatta.

"I think it's a great idea as long as that neighborhood has an active Neighborhood Watch," the police chief said. "I think they enhance safety of the neighborhoods, and I think it's the right thing to do."

Launched in 1972, Neighbor-hood Watch counts on residents to organize and work with law enforcement agencies on keeping an eye out on their communities.

The program, according to the Prevention Council, works because it reduces opportunities for crimes to occur; it doesn't rely on altering or changing the criminal behavior or motivation.

Tips for Neighborhood Watch programs, according to the National Crime Prevention Council:

  • Work with the police or sheriff's office. These agencies are critical to a group's credibility and are sources for information and training.
  • Link up with local victims' services office to get members trained in helping victims of crime.
  • Host regular meetings to help residents get to know each other and decide upon program strategies and activities.
  • Canvass door-to-door to recruit members.
  • Ask people who seldom leave their homes to be "window watchers."
  • Sponsor a crime and drug prevention fair.
  • Gather the facts about crime in your neighborhood. Check police reports, conduct victimization surveys and learn residents' perceptions about crimes.
  • Work with small businesses to repair rundown storefronts, clean up littered streets and create jobs for young people.
  • Emphasize that Watch groups are not vigilantes and should not assume the role of police.

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