By Sonya Anderson
Something just doesn’t feel right. You’ve noticed a car sitting outside your neighbours’ home and you know that they both work during the day. The car’s two occupants get out and, after peeking through the front door windows, start to kick down the door.
Late one night, before heading to bed, you decide to take one last look up the street to make sure everything is okay, but the sight of three men checking vehicle door handles puts you into reactive mode.
What would you do if either of these scenarios played out in front of your eyes?
Both events took place within the last three months and were thwarted by the quick action of Neighbourhood Watch members who immediately called the police, then alerted their neighbourhood captain so they could send an alert out to all of their neighbours.
While you don’t have to be a member of a Neighbourhood Watch group to pick up the phone and call the police, studies say communities with Neighbourhood Watch programs have shown up to a 61 per cent reduction in the number of crimes that happen in their neighbourhoods. The program provides a means of reducing the opportunity for crime through the active participation of local citizens.
Community members are taught how to make their homes less inviting for thieves, how to participate in Operation Identification to make their personal property less desirable to burglars and how to be alert to suspicious activity in their neighbourhoods.
Neighbourhood Watch is all about community. It’s about having your ears to the ground and your eyes on the street. But, most importantly, it’s about taking the time to get to know your neighbours so that you recognize suspicious people and behaviour when you see it happening. The strength in Neighbourhood Watch is you, the neighbour.
“Our Neighbourhood Watch captain went door to door with a flyer to let people know how they could participate in the program,” says Lyndon, a Neighbourhood Watch member in Barrie. “She’s held several meetings which have been a great opportunity to get to know my neighbours and the police officers that run the program in our community.”
Constable Julie Reynolds, a crime prevention officer and one of two officers responsible for the Neighbourhood Watch program in Barrie, says, “when people are more engaged with their neighbours they have a greater sense of ownership of their neighbourhood. They’re more committed to everyone’s safety and security.”
Another important part of the Neighbourhood Watch program is Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design, which is a guide to help a member make their property look secure while at the same time deterring criminal activity. Key elements include lighting, landscaping and territoriality, all of which make potential offenders feel that they do not belong on a well-maintained property or in a neighbourhood that has lots of people watching out for each other. If implemented correctly, environmental design has been shown to reduce property crime on its own by 80 per cent.
Call Constable Julie Reynolds of Barrie Police at (705) 725-7025 ext. 2919 for more information.
Sonya Anderson photo