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It could happen to you!  How and Why to form your own Neighborhood Watch

  By Heather , Bluffparkal.org  heather@bluffparkal.org   Photos ©2010 BluffParkAl.org
Six in the evening and a man enters an unlocked fence and breaks into a side door of a house. The intruder makes his way to the basement and opens the garage door for an accomplice who drives his car in! With the door closed the two load the car with valuables - TV sets, DVD players and the family computer filled with photos and banking information. They pull out and drive away and none of the neighbors know that the car was NOT supposed to be at this house…..

A white minivan drives down the street and parks a few blocks from little Jenny’s home. Her mother and father are on their way home, as well. Jenny jumps off her school bus and heads for the front door. The white minivan starts driving up the street and watches Jenny go inside. Mom and Dad get home, and they have a nice evening. The next day Jenny goes to her bus stop where the same white minivan is stopped. The same white minivan pulls up to Jenny and asks if she wants a ride to school. Jenny says no and backs away from the car and runs to a neighbor’s house…

Both of the above accounts are scenarios that can happen, and they can happen in any area. “Any place, any where, any time you can be a victim of a crime,” says office Brian Foreman of the Hoover Police. “Neighborhood Watch programs are the best way to keep yourself and your property safe.”

Several Neighborhood Watch Groups have been formed in the last 5 years in the Bluff Park area. Recently, Officer Brian Foreman hosted a meeting with Shades Crest Road residents at the Bluff Park Community Center (next to Shades Cliff Pool) after several home break-ins in the area. This meeting got them on the path to forming their own Neighborhood Watch.

Officer Foreman went over calls for service for the Shades Crest Road area from 7/1/2009 through 6/24/2010 view here he also discussed total calls for service for the area view here.

The neighbors discussed recent issues, asked questions and got to know each other. They also picked up material on “Operation Identification,” a program for marking valuables, and took home print-outs and booklets with safety tips.

“You have to remove the opportunity for crime and think like a criminal.” Foreman says. Ask yourself, “does my house look like no one is home? Is it an easy target? Is my mail building up in the mailbox or the mailbox of an empty house on my street? Are there newspapers in my front yard? That is a good sign to a would be robber that you are not at home. Are cars parked and never move from the same spot? Do the same lights stay on?

Make your home look like you are there even when you are not. Let your neighbors know when you are out of town, what lights you have on and if a service like a yard crew is going to be on your property.

Officer Foreman also displayed an example of the new “City of Hoover Neighborhood Watch” signs. “Theses signs have teeth, they serve as a notice to criminals that this is “our/your turf” it stakes a claim.” says Foreman. Even Watch groups as small as two get a sign! Criminals are less likely to prey on homes that are in a Neighborhood Watch!

All it takes is one neighbor talking to another and deciding if they want to form a watch on their block. Anyone can contact Officer Foreman on setting up a meeting for your street or block to discuss the prospect.

Here is a break down of SOME of the information given at meetings like this to start your own Neighborhood Watch.

What is a Neighborhood Watch group?

A Watch Group is a group of neighbors who look out for each other and their property.

Step One
• For small groups, 4 to 10 homes are about a block. You should have line of sight of the homes in your group. Groups as small as 2 homes will still work and more might join after the block watch has been established.
• Contact Officer Brian Foreman of the Hoover Police 444-7700 or FOREMANR@ci.hoover.al.us' . Officer Foreman will set up a meeting with you to look at statistics for your street or block. Publicize the meeting with flyers or go door to door. You can also make phone calls to neighbors you know personally. Bluffparkal.org will also list meetings. (Like this past one with Shades Crest Residents on the Bluff Park Forum.)
• Hold your first meeting to see neighbor’s interest. Begin to identify issues that need to be addressed.
Step Two
This can be done at the first meeting with Officer Foreman.
• Elect a Block Captain (If you would like to volunteer to be a Block Captain for your street but have not talked to neighbors or are having trouble getting started, you can contact Officer Foreman and go from there.)
• After the Watch is established, they will get a “City of Hoover Neighborhood Watch” sign that is posted at the street.
What Block Captains do:
A Block Captain will serve as a liaison between neighbors and at times the Hoover Police. They will also register their group on www.usaonwatch.org

Other responsibilities include:
• Keeping up to date contact information on members in the group. This could be done through a newsletter, a phone tree or even just e-mails.
• Communicating information about future meetings (setting future meetings and events), alerting the group of crime incidents, and squashing rumors and gossip (so that your Watch just sticks to the facts).
• Posting issues or a BOLO on the Bluffparkal.org forum (anyone can do this but the police need to be called first and alerted to any issue before a post is made)
Example of how the Block Captain and the Hoover Police would communicate:
The police might contact the Block Captain to alert them of a suspicious person watching homes in the area.

Other activities the Watch Might want to participate in
With police the Watch Group can:
• Train its members in home security techniques.
• Learn good observation skills and crime reporting.
• Learn about types of crime that affect the area.
• Sponsor cleanups or beautify the area, physical conditions like abandoned cars and overgrown vacant lots contribute to crime.
• Celebrate success, recognize volunteers, hold dinners or meet for coffee.
• Discuss broader issues such as drug abuse, gangs, self-protection tactics, and isolation of the elderly, area schools, computer safety for adults and children and rape prevention.
Starting a Watch Group is not difficult; it can be fun as well as serve to protect the area. Businesses in the area can also benefit from forming a Business Watch Group, and it works the same way with minor variations. If you would like more information on starting a Watch Group on your block or business area, contact Officer Foreman at 444-7700 or foremanr@ci.hoover.al.us

Bluffparkal.org being "By, For and About Bluff Park, Alabama" is here to give residents some step-by-step information on how to form a Watch. Bluffparkal.org is not in charge of Watch Groups. We are just a way of communicating the information on how to do so.

Fear of being the first one to step up and get the ball rolling is an obstacle many residents have had.

Information can also be found on the Neighborhood Watch Information page at www.Bluffparkal.org and at the Hoover Police Substation next to Armorsafe.

*******Information in this article from National Crime Prevention Council www.ncpc.org “Starting a Neighborhood Watch” and The National Sheriff’s Association “Business Watch, Keeping Criminals out of your Business” pamphlet. Hooverpd.com and www.usaonwatch.org
All materials are available at the Hoover Substation in Bluff Park.

©2010 BluffParkAl.org
Residents at Neighborhood Watch meeting.
©2010 BluffParkAl.org
Officer Foreman, Hoover PD
©2010 BluffParkAl.org
Residents at Neighborhood Watch meeting.
©2010 BluffParkAl.org
Capt. Coker, Hoover PD, speaking to residents at Neighborhood Watch meeting.
©2010 BluffParkAl.org
Capt. Jim Coker (L) and Ofc. Brian Foreman (R), Hoover PD
©2010 BluffParkAl.org
Capt. Coker, Hoover PD,  addressing residents at Neighborhood Watch meeting.
©2010 BluffParkAl.org
Residents at Neighborhood Watch meeting.
©2010 BluffParkAl.org
Ofc. Foreman addressing residents at Neighborhood Watch meeting.
©2010 BluffParkAl.org
Neighborhood Watch Sign



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