We’ve all seen the Neighborhood Watch signs near the entrances to our neighborhoods but do you really know what they mean? Is anyone really watching? In this article we will discuss what neighborhood watch is and how you can be a part of it.
Wikipedia defines neighborhood watch as “an organized group of citizens devoted to crime and vandalism prevention within a neighborhood”. The premise of neighborhood watch is based in part on the “city watch” or “town guard” programs of colonial times. Neighborhood watch in its current form was started in the late 1960’s in New York City after a woman was murdered and it was reported there were 12 witnesses who did nothing to stop the crime or to apprehend the suspect. In 1972 the National Sheriff’s Association began an effort to revitalize the “watch group” concept and spread it throughout the country. Today’s Neighborhood Watch is supported by a number of organizations including the National Crime Prevention Council, the Department of Justice, National Sheriff’s Association and Bureau of Justice Assistance among others. Neighborhood watch is often closely associated with Citizens Corps groups. In Temecula, neighborhood watch is organized and headed up by the Temecula Citizen’s Corps with support from the Temecula Police Department Crime Prevention Unit.
In a nutshell, neighborhood watch is a group of citizens in a certain area (usually a couple of blocks or so) who get together and organize to prevent crime in their area by patrolling, reporting crimes, or simply being available by creating phone lists in the case of an emergency. A local group is usually headed up by a block captain who is the point of contact for the members of the group. Above that is typically an area coordinator who manages the block captains for a city or large area.
The job of neighborhood watch volunteers on patrol is to simply observe and report. It is strictly forbidden for members to attempt to apprehend suspects. The police department will respond to contact suspects and make arrests if warranted. Patrolling is a very effective method of preventing crime just by being visible. Criminals want an easy target for their crimes and a neighborhood where people are actively watching the area is not an easy target.
People who participate in neighborhood watch programs also frequently become involved in Citizen’s Corps programs. Citizen’s Corps is a volunteer disaster/emergency response group. Members receive valuable training through grants and funds from local and state agencies. Members who complete the training are issued response gear to be prepared to respond to a call for mobilization. The local Program Administrator for both Neighborhood Watch and Temecula Citizen’s Corps is Craig Turner. He can be reached at (951) 265-1515 or by e-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org
Community Service Officer John Thomas is a long time resident of Temecula and is a Crime Prevention Officer with the Temecula Police Department Crime Prevention Unit. He can be reached at (951) 506-5132.