Neighborhoods should contact police to start own crime watch
Q: I am one of 370 residents at a mobile home park in unincorporated Pinellas County.
We would like to start a neighborhood watch program, but we're not sure how to initiate, network or organize one.
Mike Hurley Sr.
A: Organizing a neighborhood crime watch is a great way to identify, report and prevent crime in your area. These programs use some of the best crime prevention tools: good neighbors.
If you have a neighborhood or homeowners association, ask if it will sponsor and support a crime watch. Then contact local law enforcement.
The St. Petersburg Police Department's Crime Prevention Unit created a crime watch handbook with information useful anywhere. Here are some of its best suggestions.
• Call your crime prevention unit to establish a relationship with a designated crime prevention officer. Ask about crime statistics in your area, and how a crime watch can benefit you and your neighbors.
• Canvas your neighborhood to build interest and share what you've learned. A commitment doesn't require frequent meetings nor is anyone asked to take personal risk to prevent crime.
• Schedule a meeting. The date should be far enough in advance to give adequate notice to neighbors and your crime prevention officer. The neighborhood is responsible for finding a meeting place large enough for all residents to attend. Try a local school or church. Notify the neighborhood as soon as possible and remind residents as the meeting approaches.
Areas organize differently, but typically there is an appointed coordinator as well as block captains. The coordinator is responsible for things such as organizing meetings, supervising and informing block captains, and maintaining interest.
Block captains' assignments will be determined with help from your police department contact. Captains should create and maintain an up-to-date block map with resident information. They should also meet with neighbors on their block regularly and inform them immediately of any criminal activity.
A report in your neighborhood newsletter will also keep residents informed. No newsletter? Starting one could be a fun, social project for a group of enthusiastic volunteers.
When neighbors look out for one another and stay up to date on crimes, there is potential for a secure neighborhood, new friends and a happy community.
Here are your local crime prevention unit contacts:
St. Petersburg: (727) 893-7128, www.stpete.org/police/pdf/crime-prev/crime-watch-book-03-09.pdf (Neighborhood Crime Watch Handbook link)
Pinellas County: (727) 582-5661, pcsoweb.com/pages/crime_prevention/neighborhood_watch.html
Hillsborough County: (813) 247-8115, www.hcnwa.org/
Hernando County: (352) 754-6830, www. hernandosheriff.org/Programs/CrimeWatch/
Pasco County: toll-free 1-800-854-2862 ext. 3376, www.pascosheriff.com/websmart/pasco/static/TB%20Crime%20Prevention.htm