Is the incidence of crime up in your area? Have you ever considered doing something practical to make your city or town safer?
As local governments continue to face budget shortages, police forces are also affected as "downsizing" forces communities to do more with less. As a result, people in many neighborhoods and condominium associations across the country are taking practical steps by organizing "Neighborhood Watch" groups.
These groups work directly with local law enforcement officials and have been effective in reducing crime, in some cases significantly. In a typical watch group, volunteers are sent out to comb the area during times when crime is most likely to occur, generally after dark. Two volunteers walk around the neighborhood together, often carrying a flashlight and a walkie-talkie.
No one confronts or takes any direct action against a potential criminal, but suspicious activities are reported to the police. Most "walkers" go out long enough to thoroughly check out the neighborhood, usually on one-hour shifts. During this time, they check in with a volunteer "base station" to verify that everything is okay. In more urban environments, people drive around in radio-equipped cars.
If a suspicious activity is spotted, the incident is reported to the base station monitor who, in turn, calls the police, often with an identifying code for a fast response.
The cost of maintaining a Neighborhood Watch Group is relatively low. A good pair of CB walkie-talkies, preferably with rechargeable batteries, and a sturdy flashlight are the only start-up costs involved. While there will be some occasional need for maintenance and batteries, the largest cost is in the time involved in setting up a schedule and going out on the watches. In groups with many volunteers, it takes only an hour every couple of weeks. Many groups rotate the base station responsibilities, which generally means evenings for a week at a time.
Some Neighborhood Watch groups use block "captains" who alert others in the community when any incident of crime is reported. This individual may also assume a leadership role in outreach to other neighborhoods and to local law enforcement authorities.
The benefits are great for everyone who participates. Volunteers have the opportunity to get better acquainted with their neighbors by working toward a common goal. All residents of the community, of course, benefit by the increased security. If you think about it, the I-must-do-something attitude will always solve more problems than the something-must-be-done attitude.
If you are concerned about theft, break-ins, or violence in your neighborhood, you are encouraged to get involved. If there is no Neighborhood Watch Group in your area, contact your local police or community association to get one started.
You may also want to write to the Neighborhood Anti-Crime Center, 305 Seventh Avenue, 15th Floor, Department P, New York, NY 10001.