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Getting started to organize your neighbors on the block requires at least one person on each block willing to knock on some of doors and say something like:
“Hi, I’m your neighbor___, I live at ___. We’re trying to organize a Neighborhood Watch group on our block — is that something you would like to participate in? What I’m doing today is asking each of us to share our contact information with each other — if you would share an email address it would make it much easier, as I will be able to simply email our contact info around, and keep the group informed about how we’re doing on getting a training organized”. Before you start going door to door, let CNW know what you are doing and we will Email you an Excel doc spreadsheet where all you have to do is fill in the blanks.
If one of your neighbors doesn’t have computer skills, you can type or write down your neighbors contact information. You will need to make a copy for every neighbor on the list. Since we don’t leave things in mailboxes (illegal) or leave papers in doors (makes homes look unoccupied) we suggest you either mail or hand deliver the copy to your neighbor. However you do it, sharing your contact information among yourselves is the most important step in setting up your Neighborhood Watch block.
Once the “block training” has taken place, there are certain “levels of participation” that determine the official status of recognition for that block. Based on national standards, CNW will recognize a Block, and a person(s) as Block Captain, when they submit a roster to CNW showing the % trained on their block. If the % of the occupied houses to have at least one occupant attend the training reaches 25%, we designate the block as ‘recognized’ as a “block in progress” working towards the 50% national standard. With subsequent trainings, once the 50% is achieved, the block becomes fully certified. CNW, after reviewing this information, installs a “free” neighborhood watch sign (paid for by CNW) on City of Columbia property, with the option that the block can purchase another sign through CNW (CNW installs this sign as well, typically at the other end of the street).
View the 37 page manual that Columbia Neighborhood Watch uses as a reference guide.
CNW is organized by ‘basic’ block units of homes who watch out for each other, and, because they are aware of their neighbor’s comings and goings, which cars and people belong, etc., can quickly spot unusual or suspicious behavior. In the past 15 to 20 houses was the recommended maximum size for a block unit, but blocks in the 25 to 35 house range can work, although at this size folks are starting to trade off everyone knowing everyone else’s living patterns and vehicles for connectedness over a larger area and convenience of administration. Blocks longer than about 20 houses usually share a common feature: a long street with no cross streets, other than small connected courts. “Suspicious activity” in vehicular or pedestrian form will generally be seen by many of the houses in such a block, and should be of immediate observational interest to those members of the block.
Things Your Burglar Won’t Tell You:
- Of course I look familiar. I was here just last week cleaning your carpets, painting your shutters, or delivering your new refrigerator.
- Hey, thanks for letting me use the bathroom when I was working in your yard last week. While I was in there, I unlatched the back window to make my return a little easier.
- Love those flowers. That tells me you have taste… and taste means there are nice things inside. Those yard toys your kids leave out always make me wonder what type of gaming system they have.
- Yes, I really do look for newspapers piled up on the driveway. And I might leave a pizza flyer in your front door to see how long it takes you to remove it.
- If it snows while you’re out of town, get a neighbor to create car and foot tracks into the house. Virgin drifts in the driveway are a dead giveaway.
- If decorative glass is part of your front entrance, don’t let your alarm company install the control pad where I can see if it’s set. That makes it too easy.
- A good security company alarms the window over the sink. And the windows on the second floor, which often access the master bedroom – and your jewelry. It’s not a bad idea to put motion detectors up there too.
- It’s raining, you’re fumbling with your umbrella, and you forget to lock your door – understandable. But understand this: I don’t take a day off because of bad weather.
- I always knock first. If you answer, I’ll ask for directions somewhere or offer to clean your gutters. Don’t take me up on it.)
- Do you really think I won’t look in your sock drawer? I always check dresser drawers, the bedside table, and the medicine cabinet.
- Here’s a helpful hint: I almost never go into kids’ rooms.
- You’re right: I won’t have enough time to break into that safe where you keep your valuables. But if it’s not bolted down, I’ll take it with me.
- A loud TV or radio can be a better deterrent than the best alarm system. If you’re reluctant to leave your TV on while you’re out of town, you can buy a $35 device that works on a timer and simulates the flickering glow of a real television.
8 More Things a Burglar Won’t Tell You:
- Sometimes, I carry a clipboard. Sometimes, I dress like a lawn guy and carry a rake. I do my best to never, ever look like a crook.
- The two things I hate most: loud dogs and nosy neighbors.
- I’ll break a window to get in, even if it makes a little noise. If your neighbor hears one loud sound, he’ll stop what he’s doing and wait to hear it again. If he doesn’t hear it again, he’ll just go back to what he was doing. It’s human nature.
- I’m not complaining, but why would you pay all that money for a fancy alarm system and leave your house without setting it?
- I love looking in your windows. I’m looking for signs that you’re home, and for flat screen TVs or gaming systems I’d like. I’ll drive or walk through your neighborhood at night, before you close the blinds, just to pick my targets.
- Avoid announcing your vacation on your Facebook page. It’s easier than you think to look up your address.
- To you, leaving that window open just a crack during the day is a way to let in a little fresh air. To me, it’s an invitation.
- If you don’t answer when I knock, I try the door. Occasionally, I hit the jackpot and walk right in.
Sources: Convicted burglars in North Carolina , Oregon , California , and Kentucky ; security consultant Chris McGoey, and Richard T. Wright, a criminology professor at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, who interviewed 105 burglars for his book “Burglars on the Job.”
View Columbia crime reports on RaidsOnLine
911 — Emergencies, crimes in progress
573 442-6131 — Report suspicious activity, accidents, any non-emergency requiring a timely response, unlicensed or abandoned vehicles on public streets. This number is answered on a 24/7 basis by Joint Communications.
Suspicious Activity Concerning Persons
|Going door to door in a residential area, especially if one or more persons goes to rear of residence.||Possible burglary suspects or trespassers.|
|Waiting or loitering in front of a house or business, if business is closed or unoccupied.||Possible burglary suspects.|
|Forcing entrance or entering you neighbor’s house, when it is unoccupied||Possible burglary, theft, or trespassing.|
|Person running, especially if something of value is being carried.||Possible suspect fleeing the scene of a crime.|
|Person carrying property that is not wrapped, at an unusual hour.||Possible suspect fleeing the scene of a burglary or robbery.|
|Pedestrian traffic to and from a certain residence and occurs on a regular basis.||Possible drug house or stolen property being sold for drugs.|
|Person screaming.||Possible assault taking place.|
|Person loitering around cars or going car to car peering into the cars.||Possible car thief.|
|Persons offering items for sale at low prices.||Possibly selling stolen property.|
|Persons loitering around schools, parks, or secluded areas.||Possible sex offenders or drug dealers.|
|Strangers loitering or driving||Possible burglar suspects or vandals.|
Suspicious Activity Concerning Vehicles
|Slow moving vehicle, with out lights at night, around schools, residential streets, or playgrounds.||Possible drug dealer, sex offender, or burglar.|
|Parked or occupied vehicle containing one or more persons, especially significant if observed at an unusual hour.||Possible lookouts for a burglary or robbery.|
|Vehicles being loaded with valuables if parked by a closed business or unoccupied residence.||Possible burglary or theft in progress.|
|Abandoned vehicle in your block.||Possible stolen car.|
|Vehicle containing weapons.||Owner may engage in illegal activity.|
|Vehicle where someone is being forced into it, especially females or juveniles.||Possible assault, kidnapping, attempted rape or child sex offender.|
|Vehicle where a business transaction is being conducted, around schools or parks.||Possibly selling stolen items or drugs.|
|Locked vehicle that someone is attempting to forcibly enter, especially in a parking lot.||Possible theft of a car or its contents.|
|Objects thrown from a vehicle.||Possible disposal of contraband.|
It takes more than just one person to keep a Neighborhood Watch active and successful.
Once a Neighborhood Watch group is established in your area, members are encouraged to watch out for one another, target harden their homes, and hold regular meetings or neighborhood events at least once or twice a year. This way everyone can keep up-to-date on current crime trends and continue to build a sense of community.
Here are some commonly held beliefs, the reality behind those beliefs, and how Neighborhood Watch can help you and your neighbors… “Crime’s not a problem in our neighborhood.” This may or may not be true; however, because there is usually a lack of communication among neighbors most people don’t know what is actually occurring in their own community.
Neighborhood Watch encourages neighbors to talk to each other. At Neighborhood Watch meetings, your beat officer can provide group members with local crime statistics. “If someone really wants to break in, they will.” This probably true; however, most burglars will choose the easiest target, such as a house with an unlocked door or open window. The beat officer can provide tips on learn how to target harden your homes.
“What if I call the Police Dept. and nothing’s wrong?” So you may be a little embarrassed; however, what if your instincts were right? You could have prevented a burglary or something much more severe from occurring. Neighborhood Watch teaches group members how to identify and report suspicious persons, vehicles, activity, and crime. You can call the non-emergency police phone number to report a suspicious activity or concern. For emergencies Call 911.
Now that your Neighborhood Watch network is established, be sure that everyone understands and observed the following guidelines:
- Be alert to unusual or suspicious behavior in your neighborhood. Call the police if warranted. Write down descriptions of the person(s) involved and license numbers of any vehicles involved.
- Tell a trusted neighbor if your house will be unoccupied for an extended period. Tell him or her how to reach you in an emergency. You can also call the police department and request a vacation check of your residence while you are away.
- Look after your neighbors’ homes when they are away, and ask them to look after yours. This includes picking up the mail or newspapers and putting back the garbage cans or recycling bins. Don’t leave signals that say, “no one is home.”
- Hold a Neighborhood Watch block meetings at least once a year. Contact the Police and request that your beat officer attend. They can inform you about local crime trends and what you can do about them.
- Above all, get involved. It is the most effective way to reduce or prevent crime and make your neighborhood safe.
- Ask your law enforcement agency for help with “home security surveys” for individual residences.
- Invite an officer to speak to your Neighborhood Watch group about home security.
- Learn how to secure your homes with effective door and window locks, adequate exterior lighting, and security habits.
Have knowledge of Police Department Procedures.
Schedule periodic meetings and solicit members to attend meetings.
Invite officer’s to your meetings to talk about crime trends or give training on certain security topics.
Monitor crime trends in your neighborhood.
Inform your Crime Prevention Officer if your information changes.
Inform neighbors your responsibility as a block watch captain.
Inform members of their responsibilities.
Keep a current record of the members in your program and give a copy to the Crime Prevention Unit of the police department.
Report all criminal and suspicious activity and have members do the same.
Use your position in any way to receive special consideration from any city entity or employee.
Act in a capacity of a police officer in any way.
Attempt to handle a situation in any way which may be hazardous to you or others.