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Every step they take, every move they make

Neighborhood Watch groups keeping an eye open to criminal activity

Joshua Roberts

Neighborhood Watch tips

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

• Work with the local police or sheriff's offices. These agencies are critical to a group's credibility and are sources for information and training.

• Link up with local victims' services officer 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.

Neighborhood Watch tips

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

• Work with the local police or sheriff’s offices. These agencies are critical to a group’s credibility and are sources for information and training.

• Link up with local victims’ services officer 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.

— The self-described “block head” of the Ridgeview Neighborhood Watch group, Pat Johnson doesn’t mince words in describing her area’s commitment to keeping a keen eye on comings and goings.

“We’re a bunch of snoopy, aggressive people. : We watch everything. We see everything,” Johnson said.

Her words came during a Neighborhood Watch meeting Tuesday night at The Memorial Hospital. The Craig Police Department invited the media to attend the meeting to encourage more neighborhoods to form their own Neighborhood Watch groups.

There are currently two formal Neighborhood Watch groups in Craig – Ridgeview and a four-block area around the hospital.

“We do have Neighborhood Watch in Craig, and we’re looking for other groups, neighborhoods, to step forward,” said Bill Leonard, a Police Department administrative sergeant.

Leonard said the Police Department soon will begin tracking criminal activity in those neighborhoods before and after the installation of the watch groups to better cite the program’s positive benefits.

Police officers said the key step for area residents interested in forming Neighborhood Watch groups is to organize first and, once a foundation is in place, consult with the Police Department.

“It doesn’t take a whole lot to get involved,” officer Dale Secules said, “but you have to start somewhere.”

He added that Neighborhood Watch groups are a benefit to the Police Department, and vice versa, in keeping areas free from crime.

“We need the community’s help and the community needs the Police Department,” he said. “It’s kind of a team effort.”

Launched in 1972, Neighborhood Watch relies on residents to organize and work with law enforcement agencies in monitoring their communities. The program, according to the National Crime Prevention Council, works because it reduces opportunities for crime rather than relying on altering or changing criminal behavior.

In May, the Craig City Council authorized the Ridgeview and TMH groups to install Neighborhood Watch signs. It’s a trend police would like to see in other city districts.

The Police Department divided the city into 14 districts with the potential to implement Neighborhood Watch programs. There has been at least one inquiry by residents from a neighborhood outside the city hoping to form a watch group, Leonard said.

Police Chief Walt Vanatta said Neighborhood Watch members’ commitment to keeping their community safe is a key ingredient to the new program’s success.

“They’re just a saving grace for us,” Vanatta said. “It works out really well. : They’re what makes it work.”

Anyone interested in forming a Neighborhood Watch group should visit the group’s monthly meeting, scheduled for 7 p.m. on the second Tuesday of each month inside the cafeteria at The Memorial Hospital.

Leonard said groups should have a minimum of about six families interested in the program before launching a Neighborhood Watch group. Interested groups may also call Leonard at 826-2366.

Joshua Roberts can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 210, or jroberts@craigdailypress.com.


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