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Posts Tagged ‘Neigborhood Watch in OG: What is it?’

Sign from Hingham, Mass.

By Paul Goldfinger, editor @Blogfinger

There is a nationwide Neighborhood Watch movement which is sponsored by the National Sheriff’s Association. The idea is to create a crime prevention environment in neighborhoods, in cooperation with the police, where the citizens get involved in organized efforts to combat crime.

There are a variety of ways that NW groups achieve their goals. The most effective programs include some of these activities: regular organizational meetings with or without a police presence; phone trees; intermittent neighborhood walks to look for potential safety and crime problems; regular foot and/or car patrols; educational sessions to discuss topics such as child abuse, when to call the police, profiling, and alcoholism; raising funds to purchase NW signs/decals/fliers, etc; reporting code violations (a safety function); educating the public about prevention issues; and looking for projects to stimulate interest, such as watching homes when the owners are away.

The most fundamental goal of the system is to sensitize citizens to keep their eyes open and say something if they see something.

Except for the last item, the OG Neighborhood Watch does none of these things. Instead it consists of 4 district leaders and some block captains–perhaps 20 or 25. It is unclear as to how many people are actually involved. What they currently do is to operate an email tree to distribute the weekly OG crime reports from the NTPD. No one seems to know exactly how many folks receive regular notifications by email from the NW. The best guess might be a few hundred in a town with a census population of about 3,500. Of course the population swells in-season. Blogfinger also posts those police reports and we reach well over 1,000 people each day.

The effectiveness of our NW is impacted by a reduction in volunteerism in town as well as the change in demographics where many homeowners are only here on weekends. This leaves the town with fewer watchers to do the watching. Recruitment is non-existent. Second-homers tend not to volunteer to help groups such as Citizens Patrol and NW. Another problem is that some people have no email, so they evidently receive no notifications. There used to be a phone tree in town.

One of the four zone commanders said that some homeowners don’t even want to be on the email list. There are citizens who are skeptical of the program, and it appears that more people are nervous about crime in OG and are installing alarm systems.

Interestingly, some people in OG don’t like the idea of Neighborhood Watch. They don’t want their neighbors observing them. Some worry about bad publicity which can effect those who sell real estate and those who have shops in town. My own cousin was considering moving here, but after reading all the crime  reports in Blogfinger he half-jokingly said, “Why would I want to live there?”

However, as weak as it is, the Ocean Grove  NW is doing some good. Three of the four zone commanders have told us that the program needs improvement. These leaders have different ideas about what to do with the organization. The main problem now is that no one is running the show. NW is a citizen-driven concept, so somebody needs to take charge if the OG NW is to have a greater impact.

Perhaps the problems noted above make it impossible to take our Neighborhood Watch to the next level. What do you think?

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