Many successful Neighborhood Watch programs have growing pains at the start. Sometimes, it's trouble getting people on board. Other times, it's a lack of communication.
Now one Neighborhood Watch success story that had an ominous start, but has since flourished. The residents of one Berrien County neighborhood can look back now and laugh. But it wasn't necessarily a laughing matter then.
Morrie and Skipper Dahl have lived in the King's Addition Neighborhood in Niles Township for 32 years. Shortly after they moved in, the Dahls and their neighbors started a neighborhood watch.
Morrie explains the tuff start they had. “And we all chipped in some money, bought some signs, bought the stickers for the doors and windows and so forth to let people know that's what it is. Well, that lasted about less than a year and somebody stole our signs.”
The Neighborhood Watch signs were posted on the two entrances into King's Addition and, to this day, haven't been replaced.
Morrie explains how they never found the signs. “We never recovered them. I guess they're probably in somebody's dorm in one of the colleges.”
But it wasn't a sign of things to come. If anything, it made the residents of this rural neighborhood more vigilant.
Morrie explains when asked some of the issues you had to work through. “One of the earlier ones was a little drug use in the woods down here behind us. Somebody had reported their action and the next thing we knew there was a policeman up in one of the trees and they caught them.”
Morrie says residents were also instrumental in ridding the woods of poachers, who were illegally hunting deer. Just recently, a burglar was nabbed thanks to an alert resident. “Person had gone to the store and come back, and in a few minutes, the house had been broken into and they caught him. Somebody was watching the car. It's a close neighborhood so I imagine when your truck came along here it's under surveillance, and then we'll get a phone call probably asking what happened.”
The Dahls say one reason crime is rare in this neighborhood of some fifty homes, is because the neighbors make a point of getting to know each other.
Skipper Dahl says how much the neighborhood has come together. “Well, everybody's so congenial. We don't camp on each other's doorsteps. But if you ever have a problem, we can go for the nearest help and they'll be glad to help us. And every year we have this fish fry down the street and the whole neighborhood is invited. You bring a dish to pass. And have a wonderful visit. So it's wonderful way to get to know the neighborhood. In fact, one of the neighbors around the corner said he would never want to move out of this area because everybody is just like family.”
And speaking of family, the Dahls are celebrating 62 years of wedded bliss in June, and are looking forward to the annual neighborhood fish fry this summer.
The Dahls say that the younger families are getting involved, but it's harder for them because many work and have kids in school. They're confident the younger families will step up as the years pass to keep it going.
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