Some are called Neighborhood Watch groups whereas others go by Community Watch or Block Watch, but the underlying concept of community participation in crime prevention is the same, and the police department is working to encourage more involvement.
Rocky Mount police Community Services Supervisor Yvette Jones recently held an Advanced Citizens Police Academy focusing on how to start and maintain community watch groups. Jones said society has gotten away from watching out for one another, but these groups are a step in the right direction.
“Neighborhood Watch is people working together and looking out for each other,” Jones said. “You are not going to be at your house at all times, so it is the nosy lady down the block or the little boy who’ll speak up and say they saw someone at your house.”
Jones said one of her neighbors is nearly always outside and is not afraid to question a stranger’s presence at a neighbor’s vacant house. She said that concern for neighbors along with a concern for the neighborhood’s appearance contributes to a community’s quality of life.
“Small things like trash, cars that haven’t been moved, high grass and broken windows can lead to more issues and eventually crime,” Jones said. “Criminals look for these signs to indicate whether or not a community will call about them dealing drugs or other criminal activity. If basic things aren’t taken care of, people stop feeling safe and the criminals move in.”
A Neighborhood Watch is not the complete solution to criminal activity, but it can offer an opportunity for residents to get to know one another and take an active role in addressing issues early on, she said. She recommended residents looking to start a group had out surveys that ask residents what issues they think the community has and ask for ideas of solutions to address the issues.
“Let the community help come up with ways to help address issues because they’ll buy into it more and develop a sense of pride because it is not the police department doing it – they are,” Jones said. “Build partnerships not only with law enforcement but other city departments, local businesses and organizations to address community issues.”
She used the example of area youth committing vandalism because of a lack of anything to do. She said getting the Parks and Recreation department involved in creating activities for youth can address the cause of the issue rather than just arresting the vandals.
To learn more about how to start a watch, contact Jones at 972-1436 or yvette.jones@ rockymountnc.gov.