Neighborhood Watch fights crime and brings a community together

More and more people are getting involved in neighborhood watch programs. Participation usually follows a rash of crime in their neighborhood and they decide it is time to fight back. One man's involvement stemmed from a petty theft.

Pete Redden remembers exactly when and why he got involved in neighborhood watch. Ten years ago, Redden's father suddenly passed away.

“A good friend of ours in the neighborhood wanted to have my kids remember by dad and they got them one those stones you can purchase with the engraving on it. It had a big ‘ND’ on it. It was a really nice stone and we had it on the front of the house,” explained Redden.

“One morning we got up and I noticed something didn't seem right in the front yard and I noticed it was missing. Well, it didn't take kids long to figure out something wasn't right. They saw that it was missing. They got pretty upset. I got mad. Somebody actually walked on my property, violated my private property and took something that meant a lot to us.

It was not the cost of the item that was stolen but its significance that motivated Redden’s involvement. He did not just get mad; he got involved.

Its disappearance would eventually have a significant impact on an entire subdivision, because Redden’s decision to fight back led to a coming together of neighbors with a common purpose.

At that time, Redden’s Gr anger subdivision, Fox Chase, did not have a neighborhood watch program. Redden made sure that it would from that day forward.

“I took it upon myself to put something together,” says Redden.

He explained that neighbors were reluctant to get involved at first but then realized the benefits of staying connected with each other. It turned out to be an opportunity for neighbors to communicate with each other for incidents that have happened or for strange things that they saw with regards to safety in the neighborhood.

“It's evolved to where we have a great communication with the St. Joe County police for incidents that happen in our neighborhood and surrounding subdivisions to where if there's a rash of break-ins, or burglaries, or theft, or vandalism, we communicate really well on what's happening where,” says Redden.

The neighborhood communication takes place by email or phone, trying to stay one step ahead of the crooks.

There is solid evidence that the neighborhood watch has made Fox Chase a safer place with fewer incidences over the past ten years. Currently, another Notre Dame stone adorns Redden's front porch.

Redden says, “shortly after the stone disappeared, the kids were pretty upset about it. So, I took the kids to the store and I had them help me pick one out. It’s something that they can also have a direct impact on and know that it's not the stone that's the important thing, it's what the meaning of the stone is: to remember their grandfather by.”

Besides the obvious benefit of reducing crime, Redden also says the neighborhood watch in Fox Chase has strengthened the sense of community beyond just keeping the neighborhood safe. People have become closer and developed new friendships.

Redden explains that the benefits have come, “To the point where it's gone beyond warning fellow residents of potential crime to asking for help finding a missing cat or dog, or making a game plan to take dinners to a sick or convalescing neighbor.”

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