In light of the shooting tragedy of a Florida teenager by a self-appointed neighborhood watch member about one month ago, Manassas City Crime Prevention specialists Adrienne Helms reiterates the goal of such groups and their members here in Manassas.
Manassas has several active neighborhood watch groups in areas such as Sumner Lake, Weems ad Georgetown South. Helms said the purpose of such groups and their members is to “surveillance areas and report suspicious activities to police.”
She said neighborhood watch members should never take it upon themselves to confront a suspicious person or activity.
Extensive training that goes on with neighborhood watch groups emphasizes “reporting not confronting intruders,” Helms said. “Confronting a situation is simply not safe,” she said.
As far as neighborhood watch members carrying a weapon, Helms said those individuals would have to go through the process of obtaining a concealed weapons permit to carry, just like anyone else. she said the use of weapons of any kind is not encouraged. “Our training focuses on surveillance and identifying and reporting suspicious behavior so police can respond,” Helms said.
One-time Manassas resident George Zimmerman is the target of a national uproar after he shot to death 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in February. Zimmerman, who is claiming self defense in the tragic shooting, called 911 to report the “suspicious” teenager, but failed to obey commands to stop pursuing the teen. Moments later, a scuffle between the two ensues and gun shots that claimed the life of Martin are heard, according to media reports.
Helms, who began work as the city’s new Crime Prevention Specialist in November of 2011, said the city is in the process of reactivating dismantled Neighborhood Watch groups in areas throughout the city. she said there is a lot of interest by neighborhood leaders who want to work with the city and adjacent neighborhoods to provide training. There is a huge effort to train, she said.
Helms said the registration of Neighborhood Watch groups with the city is informal at the moment, but that could change as the program expands.
“There is always the possibility the program will evolve into a more formal process,” she said.
In the meantime, Helms said the city’s Neighborhood Watch program is structured around extensive communication between different groups and the police department’s presence in the community at training, volunteer and neighborhood association events.
Helms is expected to give a presentation on Neighborhood Watch efforts, policy and training at the next regularly scheduled council meeting on April 9.
Tell us what you think. do you think Neighborhood Watch groups are effective? do you think they should still exist, given what has happened in Florida?
A neighborhood watch group is an effective way to prevent crime and vandalism around your home. Since 1972, neighborhood watch groups have been helping to protect communities by working with local law enforcement agencies.
If you are thinking of starting a neighborhood watch group in your area, here are some tips to help you get started:
1.Get to know your neighbors. Find out what their concerns are and how they can help.
2.Contact local law enforcement agencies for training.
3.choose a regular meeting place and have an agenda to keep the meetings on track.
4.Meet with your group often and decide on an action plan.
5.Get facts about your community’s crime rate – check police reports and databases to find out what is happening in your area.
5.Canvass door-to-door to let your neighbors know what you are doing and find volunteers.
It is important to remember that a neighborhood watch group is not a vigilante group. If a crime or suspicious activity is witnessed, notify the police immediately. Notify police if you witness any of the following:
1.a crime in progress.
2.a vehicle making slow, repeated trips around your neighborhood.
3.a stranger hanging around homes or businesses, or going door-to-door.
5.Items being removed from a home without the owner present.
In addition to looking out for crime, neighborhood watch groups can provide many useful services to the community, including:
1.Community Education. Neighborhood watch groups can speak to schools and businesses about preventing crime, vandalism, or arson.
2.Escorting the Elderly. If there are seniors living in your community, your neighborhood watch group can help them get around safely.
3.Safe Houses/Block Parents. Elect one or two families in your neighborhood to host safe houses. a safe house is a place where children can go if they feel afraid or need a trusted adult.
4.Neighborhood Beautification. Completing beautification projects out in the community not only feels good, but it deters crime. clean up vacant lots, cover up graffiti, and send the message that you care about your community.
5.Promoting Personal Safety. Sponsor home security inspections in your neighborhood or host a self-defense class. help your neighbors feel empowered to prevent crime and know what to do when one occurs.
A neighborhood watch group can be a great way to get to know the people in your community. With a little organization and support from local law enforcement, you and your neighbors can make a difference.
Neighborhood Crime Watch Programs are groups of people who keep an eye out and report any suspicious people or activities in their local area to police. Depending on the group’s interests, the group can conduct regular educational programs, public service training, or property identification programs. each of the group’s members collaborates and determines the goal and direction of its activities.
Just about every law enforcement agency in the U.S. encourages and supports such programs. such community oriented policing helps cut back on criminal activity and also assists neighbors to resolve issues that need to be addressed not necessarily from law enforcement officials.
Here is a list of reasons why you should start or join a Neighborhood Crime Watch program:
- Be being a part of this group, you will be better informed of what is going on in your neighborhood and the first to know when crimes occur near you.
- It has been statistically proven that these watch programs are effective in crime prevention. the investment of your time in such programs will yield huge returns by making your neighborhood as well as your own home a safer and better place to live.
- These programs educate its group members about what security measures are effective and ineffective.
- These programs can be a good tool for dealing with issues such as barking dogs, loud parties, abandoned vehicles, run down properties, and other issues that attract criminal activity.
- Your neighbors can be a pillar in your home security program. being an active member of a Neighborhood Crime Watch Program guarantees that both law enforcement and your neighbors will part take in maintaining your home security.
Being a member of your local crime watch program does not require that you carry a billy club and impose street justice. In fact, here is a list of things that a Neighborhood Crime Watch Program is not:
- It is not a form of vigilantism. Group members do not chase the bad guys, interrupt a burglary in progress, or track down perpetrators. they look out for problems and report them to police.
- It is not a religious cult. Neighborhood Crime Watch Programs allow members to get to know one another. Members get to know who lives in the neighborhood, who is simply visiting, who is passing through, or who is waiting around for the chance to steal your Ipod.
- It is not a 24 hour a day commitment. you attend a few meetings and then keep your eyes open during your normal at-home activities.
- It is not just for stay-at-home moms. Anybody is allowed to join.
Keep these things in mind when you move into a new neighborhood or know somebody who has just moved into your neighborhood. Get to know your neighbors and form a bond with them. together, as a community, you can help take a bite out of crime.