The Neighborhood Watch Program is coordinated by Officer Mike Alder, the department’s Community Policing Officer. If you would like to start a neighborhood watch in your area, or would simply like information regarding neighborhood watches, please contact Officer Alder @ 978-465-3121.
What is a Neighborhood Watch?
Neighborhood Watch is simply an organized group of neighborhood residents who watch out for criminal and suspicious behavior and report it to local law enforcement. The program involves neighbors looking out for neighbors and becoming familiar with each other’s habits, vehicles, and property, while working hand in hand with local law enforcement to promote security and cooperation.
Across the country, neighborhoods, and the residents who live in them, encounter any number of violent and property crimes, as well as threats of crime. The concept of neighborhood watch attempts to provide local law enforcement with additional eyes and ears to watch out for all types of criminal activity and promote neighborhood security. These community crime watches can address all types of crime, but their primary focus is on those harder to solve crimes, such as residential burglary and other crimes around the home, such as larceny and vandalism. The presence of a neighborhood watch can also deter criminals, who would attempt to conduct other criminal activities, such as drug dealing or gang activity.
A patrol officer driving by your home might not recognize someone as a stranger in your yard. However, an alert neighbor would recognize the person as a stranger and could then call 911 to notify police of the suspicious activity. Neighborhood Watch does not promote vigilantism and members of these groups are never asked to put themselves in harm’s way to prevent crime. They should only observe and report suspicious activities to the police department. This leaves the responsibility for confronting and apprehending criminals with your Salisbury Police Officers.
What are the benefits of Neighborhood Watch?
• You will be more aware of types of crime trends in your area and how to prevent them from happening to you.
• You will learn about crime prevention techniques to make your family, property, and neighborhood safer.
• You and your family will feel safer, which will promote peace of mind.
• You will meet many of your neighbors and develop friendships, unity, and a sense of community.
• Your neighbors will watch out for your property when you are away and vice versa.
• You will have a personal sense of accomplishment from doing something about crime in your area.
• Law enforcement and the community come together as a team to combat and reduce crime, while opening the much often closed doors of meaningful communication.
• Neighborhood Watch Programs fight the isolation and separation that crime creates and feeds upon.
What are some effective methods of preventing crime?
These proven crime prevention measures will go a long way toward keeping you from becoming a victim of crime:
• First, when in doubt, call 911. If you suspect suspicious or criminal behavior, call the police. Police cannot fight crime if they are not aware of it.
• Keep your home’s doors, garage, and windows shut and locked at all times.
• Improve your outdoor lighting.
• Do not leave tools, lawn equipment, toys, or other attractive items outside or in an open garage.
• Keep car doors locked and windows shut while driving and when parked.
• Do not keep valuables in plain view inside your car.
• Where applicable, trim or remove large shrubs or trees close to your home and around your doors and windows.
• Check the area when turning into your neighborhood, apartment complex, alley, or driveway. If someone suspicious is nearby, drive past and call 911.
• Remember that just as many crimes occur during the day as they do at night. Do not let down your guard just because it is daylight.
• Take precautions when leaving for vacation:
1. Call the police department for a daily house check on your property.
2. Ask a neighbor, friend or relative to pick up your daily mail.
3. Arrange to have your lawn mowed, trash brought to the curb, or your leaves raked.
4. Use lights on timers on the exterior and interior of your residence at night.
What should neighborhood residents look for?
• A stranger entering a neighbor’s home or apartment that appears to be unoccupied
• Anyone looking into parked cars, or removing parts, gasoline, or license plates from a car
• Anyone entering or leaving a place of business after hours, loitering outside, or strange vehicles driving behind businesses
• Residential or vehicle alarms sounding, breaking glass, gunshots, screaming, or abnormally barking dogs
• Anyone loitering around neighborhoods, schools, or parks
• Anyone going door to door attempting to open them, or anyone soliciting, entering back yards, or checking mailboxes
• Anyone carrying or running with unwrapped property at any unusual time, or entering and leaving through a window
• Any vehicles cruising, especially without lights at night, slowly back and forth on your street, or any abandoned vehicles
• Windows, doors, or other property recently damaged at a home or business
• Anyone sitting in a parked car, especially at an unusual hour.
• Anyone being forced into a vehicle
• Large amounts of pedestrians or vehicles at a particular residence or apartment
• Any vehicle stopping to speak to children or unfamiliar vehicles or people at local school bus stops
How do I report suspicious or criminal activity to police?
• Dial 911, or call the alternate emergency number for police, which is 978-462-9333.
• Give your name and address.
• Describe the event briefly to the dispatcher. Tell the dispatcher what happened, when and where it happened and who was involved.
• Stay on the line for additional information.
• If a vehicle is involved: What is the license plate number and state? What is the make, model, year, and color of the vehicle? Is there any damage, or are there any dents or unusual makings on the vehicle? In what direction did the vehicle go? How many occupants were inside the vehicle?
• If you are describing a person: What is their sex, race, and age? What is their height, weight, and hair color? What are they wearing for clothing? Do they have any unusual characteristics, such as scars or tattoos? From what direction did they come and in what direction did they leave? Did they say anything?
How do Neighborhood Watch Groups get started?
Anyone can form a Neighborhood Watch Group around any geographical unit: A block, apartment, park, housing complex, marina, or business area. A few concerned citizens, a community organization, or the local law enforcement agency can spearhead the effort to organize a Neighborhood Watch. Any community member can join – young or old, single or married, business owners or homeowners. The following steps should be taken:
1. The first thing to do is to visit your neighbors and explain that your interested in starting a neighborhood watch group. If you feel more comfortable having a police officer initiate the process, you should contact the police department’s Community Policing Officer. Once the contact is made, many people will give a verbal commitment to participate right at the door. Others may not know anything about the neighborhood watch and may need additional information. Others won’t talk to you and do not wish to be bothered.
2. Once you have achieved an acceptable amount of participants, inform those interested that you will be getting back in touch with them with an invitation to the first meeting. The number of households needed for participation in a Neighborhood Watch group can be worked out between you and the Community Policing Officer.
3. Once a date, time, and location have been set, meeting invitations can be distributed to those wishing to participate. Invitations should be prepared and distributed so that neighbors are given about two weeks to prepare for any scheduling conflicts.
4. Your invitation should include your selectmen and town manager. If there are any businesses or apartments in your area, you should invite the owners and landlords. Because you are doing the inviting, you can be somewhat selective in determining who you approach. Quite often, people within the watch boundaries are part of the crime problem and you do not have to invite them to come. They probably would not come anyway.
5. In order to make your initial meeting more comfortable and welcoming, arrange for refreshments to be served.
What topics should be discussed at the meeting?
The first meeting with your group is only the beginning. Meeting together regularly, usually every couple of months, allows participants to become better acquainted with one another. It is also an opportunity to work hand in hand with the police department, who can educate the neighborhood about other subjects that may be of concern to the group. Some of the following educational topics can be included in your neighborhood meeting by the Community Policing Officer:
• Detailed training and discussion of residential burglary prevention
• Review of the history of the watch concept and discussion of the responsibilities of the watch members
• Discussion of the identification and reporting of suspicious activity
• Explanation of the police department and its procedures when responding to, and answering calls for service
• Discussion of the importance of documenting serial numbers, engraving identifying numbers on merchandise, and photographing and videotaping possessions
• Discussion of various security hardware, prevention tips, and information on security lighting and alarms
• Discussion of local crime problems and how the watch can address them
How do you maintain your Neighborhood Watch Group?
As an established Neighborhood Watch Group, there are a number of activities that can be undertaken to promote the continued participation in the Neighborhood Watch:
• Community newsletter
• Community ride sharing
• Neighborhood clean-up, fix-it activities
• Welcoming committee for new neighbors
• Organized assistance for neighborhood senior citizens, disabled neighbors, or shut-ins
• Voter registration drives
• Various social activities, such as block parties or holiday parties for families and children
• Emergency planning for your neighborhood
When a neighborhood works together to help take care of its residents, a safer and more cohesive neighborhood is created. The amount of crime in the neighborhood will decrease, a greater sense of security and well being will be felt by all of the neighbors. Watch programs have proven themselves to be effective, not only in the fight against crime, but in improving the well being of the entire community. What direction the community decides to take with the program is its only limitation.