Community takes up watch

CNJ staff photo: Robin Fornoff Linda Whitaker with one of the neighborhood watch signs still waiting to be posted. The neighborhood watch group boasts 83 active volunteers and police say they are making a difference.

Robin Fornoff

If neighbors didn’t know neighbors before this neighborhood watch got started, they do now.

“It’s really impressive to see that many people jump in,” police Community Relations Officer Daron Roach said Monday. “If we could get the rest of the city to follow suit, that would really be neat.”

This all started about six weeks ago with concern over a series of vehicle and home burglaries in the Forest and Juniper communities. It is south of Brady bordered by June Street to Kimberly and Prince to Main.

“We’re just trying to take back our neighborhood,” said Linda Whitaker, 67, one of the organizers of the neighborhood watch. “In order to do that, we have to band together.”

Whitaker has lived in the neighborhood 37 years and the response, while overwhelming, doesn’t surprise her. It’s that kind of neighborhood, she said, a place of morning coffee shared next door, summer block parties and younger homeowners pitching in to help older ones mow a lawn or paint house trim.

“If someone is facing a personal tragedy,” said Whitaker, “say a death in the family or something like that, we take up a collection. We’re always there for each other.”

Police help neighborhood watches get started by offering advice and guidelines, Roach said. But all of the work is done by volunteers. Often when homeowners learn they have to do all the work, enthusiasm fades, according to Roach.

This group had so many volunteers, Roach said, they had to break down into 11 teams. Roach said members of those teams have assembled lists of telephone numbers and email addresses for most of the residents in each of their zones.

They also went door-to-door collecting money to purchase neighborhood watch signs. The signs warn would-be criminals that neighbors are watching and will report any suspicious activity to police.

The signs haven’t been placed yet because the group ran out of money to purchase posts. But just word-of-mouth about them appears to be making a difference.

Roach said calls to police are up 10 percent from one area of the neighborhood and officers have said they are not seeing or taking as many reports of crime in Forest or Juniper.

“I think we’re making a difference,” Whitaker said. “We’ll see.”