Follow The Republic:
Neighborhood watch programs are seeing a resurgence after early successes in two Columbus hotspots.
Increased neighborhood policing efforts began early in the year in the Ninth Street Park area, followed by a similar focus in the 11th and Washington streets neighborhoods.
Since those well-publicized city efforts, community groups have started working to create neighborhood watches in areas such as the Forest Park, Everroad Park East and Mead Village subdivisions; Morningside Park; Indiana Court; and Central Park Place Apartments, Columbus Police Department spokesman Lt. Matt Myers said.
In the past week, three organizational meetings for possible neighborhood watches were held, including Oct. 22 at Forest Park, Wednesday at Everroad Park and Sunday afternoon at Mead Village.
Rachel David, a Hawthorne Drive resident and neighborhood watch organizer, said the Forest Park efforts grew out of the neighborhood’s efforts to save its distinctive pillars.
The pillars marking the entrances at the neighborhood southeast of the Washington Street and National Road intersection were taken down last year during the Indiana Department of Transportation road-widening project on National Road. They were reinstalled last November by residents.
David said those efforts and a push to add more neighborhood street lighting after a few burglaries drew together an already close neighborhood.
“Several of the neighbors have gotten together and wanted to take an active role in our neighborhood,” she said. “If there is crime going on and there is anything we can do to help our neighbors, we want to be able to do that.”
About 30 people attended the Forest Park meeting with Myers. He presented statistics that showed the Forest Park neighborhood was mostly crime-free over the past year. The biggest source of police activity was traffic stops on National Road.
Myers explained how the group could organize a neighborhood watch, quizzed neighbors on what constituted suspicious activity and answered questions about police coverage of the neighborhood.
He stressed that residents know their neighborhoods best.
When a woman asked if she should call police when young men in their 20s are wandering aimlessly in the neighborhood, Myers urged her and other residents to call police whenever they feel unsafe.
He said that while a police officer patrolling the neighborhood might not notice anything unusual about a garage door standing open, neighbors would know if the homeowner was on vacation or if the resident normally leaves the door open.
Myers also urged the neighbors to try to provide unique details when giving information on suspicious activity to police. For example, simply saying there was a suspicious white, four-door car is not helpful. But describing a white Ford Taurus with a missing hubcap and broken windshield would be more beneficial to officers, he said.
Ultimately, the Forest Park residents decided to do some more legwork and decide if they really wanted to organize a formal neighborhood watch. They agreed to meet again in a few weeks to further discuss that and other community issues such as updates from police on drug abuse trends in the city.
To Myers, that interaction among the neighbors showed the meeting was a success, even if they do not formalize a neighborhood watch.
“If you want to prevent crime and you want to see a difference, it is about relationships,” Myers said.
There is no requirement that neighborhood watch programs ask for police assistance, Myers said, and the department has no statistics on how many active neighborhood watch programs exist in the city.
However, Myers said police are happy to help groups launch or revitalize neighborhood watch organizations, provide statistics and post signs warning would-be criminals that they might be under observation by a neighborhood watch.
Myers said neighborhood watches frequently begin in reaction to a crime or series of events, are active for a while and then interest can dwindle.
While Ninth Street Park and 11th and Washington efforts were driven by the city in reaction to specific crime statistics and community complaints, the next wave of watches taking shape are being driven by community members being proactive to watch out for one another.
“There has been so much attention toward those (initial) neighborhood watch programs. ... that I think it has encouraged others and brought others in different parts of town to get involved,” Myers said.
“Right now there seems to be a lot more interest in wanting to start one and be active.”
Nita Evans, of Griffa Avenue, hosted a neighborhood watch meeting Wednesday at her Everroad Park East home. Evans said she and other neighbors have been concerned by nearby drug activity and wanted to be proactive in protecting their neighborhood.
Myers said the meeting had 11 people in attendance.
The residents of the 11th and Washington streets neighborhood will hold another neighborhood watch meeting Wednesday at the Bartholomew County Public Library. But this time, instead of being city-organized, the meeting will be led by residents.
Myers stressed that police and neighborhood members build bonds of trust through these neighborhood efforts.
Think your friends should see this? Share it with them!
Note: All comments left on our sites are first reviewed by an automated comment moderation system. Your comment may take up to 5 minutes to appear. If for any reason your comment can not be approved you will receive an email from this system with a detailed explanation.
All content copyright ©2013 The Republic, a division of Home News Enterprises unless otherwise noted.