Police often stress the importance of neighborhood watch programs as an effective way to battle crime. However, many neighborhoods still don't have watch programs, perhaps because residents think it's too hard to set up.
In reality, setting up a neighborhood watch program is simple and police are able to give you all the tools you need.
A watch program does require a willingness to take that first step and the dedication to see it through. Unfortunately, it usually takes a small crime wave in a certain area before that first step is taken.
Detective Sergeant Regis Thimons is a big believer in neighborhood watch and has been heading up St. Joe County's neighborhood watch program for more than five years.
Sgt. Thimons says, “I can give you, for hours, examples of specific crimes that were averted or where we have apprehended suspects because of an active neighborhood watch program. People are taught to start calling 9-1-1 when they see suspicious activity. In the past, before the neighborhood watch program started, they never thought to call the police.”
Getting a neighborhood watch started is a lot easier than one would think. Sgt. Thimons says you don't have to live in a subdivision; you just have to share a certain geographical area with other residents.
Sgt. Thimons is the coordinator for St. Joseph County. “Each given police area may do it a little differently, but I will send out a packet. It will include how to become an active neighborhood watch coordinator, program how to start it, and get it underway. I tell them to read it, give them a couple of weeks, and then we set up a meeting where I talk about the property crimes. It’s usually a two hour meeting, and I leave it on the coordinator of that subdivision to contact every single neighbor.”
Usually, the meetings will take place in a neighborhood church, school, or library.
A great deal of information is shared about recognizing crime, reporting it to police and your neighbors, and preventing it in your neck of the woods. Sgt. Thimons says, “Then it's up to them to be the eyes for the police, which is what a neighborhood watch program is; it's the people being the eyes for the police when the police can't be there.”
Sgt, Thimons says the role of his office is to make sure residents know when it's time to keep their eyes peeled. “If I see a bunch of reports coming in from area neighborhoods, I will contact those people and I’ll say ‘hey, it's not affecting you now, but you might want to be alert.’”
Sgt. Thimons will usually email the neighborhood watch captains who will then disseminate the information either by email or phone call to residents in that neighborhood watch area.
To organize a watch program your main investment is your time, but it's a worthwhile investment when the safety of your family and neighbors is involved.
You can call your local police department or your county sheriff’s office to learn more.