Four years ago in Columbus, Ohio, the residents of the Old Oaks neighborhood formed a neighborhood watch program to confront crime in their area, which borders a rough part of Columbus where the crack of gun shots is a common sound. According to a report from MSNBC.com today, the watch group meets once a week for what they call “Wednesdays on the Porch” where they drink beer, get to know their neighbors and discuss crime rumors. The group also communicates regularly via a Yahoo! Group, an email listserv, Twitter, text messages and a telephone chain.
Common messages might be about an unfamiliar vehicle cruising the neighborhood or signs of a car break in. The Twitter and other message alerts let the group members know what to look out for and can be an alert to call the police, with the reasoning that numerous phone calls will bring a more urgent response. Old Oak Neighbors now report that the streets are quieter and crime is mostly limited to break-ins.
All across America, community watch groups are springing up as law enforcement agencies, strained by layoffs and furloughs brought on by the recession, are less able to patrol neighborhoods like Old Oaks. In fact more than 20,000 block watch groups are registered on the National Sheriff’s Association Web site, compared to about 5,000 four years ago.
Most of these groups are trained by police or other law enforcers on what to look out for and how to report crimes. While there is no hard data on how much these groups actually affect crime statistics, studies do show that cohesive neighborhoods are linked to lower crime.
I have long advocated that we, as citizens, need to take a greater responsibility for our own safety. We can not depend solely upon the government to keep us safe, whether it be from terrorism or from thieves breaking into our homes. Even in more stable economic times, the government does not have the resources or manpower to be everywhere at once. And I doubt very many of us would be comfortable living in a world where we were being watched over at all times. Community watch groups, aided by technology like Twitter and text messaging, give their members the opportunity to do their part to keep their neighborhoods safe in an organized fashion that works with established law enforcement agencies. To find out more about the Neighborhood Watch program, you can visit the Sheriff’s Association website at www.usaonwatch.org, or for tips from my book “Staying Safe” you can visit my company’s website at http://www.interforinc.com/Page.asp?id=238&Cat=5 or the book can be purchased at www.amazon.com.