by Lorie Lewis Ham
Have you ever been involved with Neighborhood Watch? If not, ever wonder what they are all about? As part of our series on Reedley, we took a moment to speak with the Reedley PD about Neighborhood watch. We chatted with Cyndee Friesen, Police Liaison Officer.
KRL: What exactly is Neighborhood Watch and how does it work?
Cyndee: A Neighborhood Watch program is a group of people living in the same area who want to make their neighborhood safer by working together and in conjunction with local law enforcement to reduce crime and improve their quality of life. Neighborhood Watch groups have regular meetings to plan how they will accomplish their specific goals and leaders with assigned responsibilities. Neighborhood Watch is homeland security at the most local level. It is an opportunity to volunteer and work towards increasing the safety and security of our homes and our homeland. Neighborhood Watch empowers citizens and communities to become active in emergency preparedness, as well as the fight against crime and community disasters.
KRL: When did Reedley first get a Neighborhood Watch?
Cyndee: Records show Reedley Neighborhood Watch starting in 1985, when Phil Hudson was hired as a Community Service Officer to lead the program. Since then many police department employees have been part of NHW with myself being the most current and I have been involved in NHW since 2008. Neighborhood Watch is one of the oldest and best-known crime prevention concepts in North America. In the late 1960s, an increase in crime heightened the need for a crime prevention initiative focused on residential areas and involving local citizens. The National Sheriffs’ Association (NSA) responded, creating the National Neighborhood Watch Program in 1972, to assist citizens and law enforcement.
KRL: How many Neighborhoods in Reedley are involved?
Cyndee: Approximately 183. Each of the five voting districts have NHW block captains and leaders who have their contact/distribution groups. Difficult to give an exact number. The 183 are my main contacts.
KRL: Why do you feel this is important?
Cyndee: National Neighborhood Watch does not advocate watch members taking any action when observing suspicious activity in their neighborhood. Community members serve as the extra “eyes and ears” and report their observations of suspicious activities to their local law enforcement. By residents keeping an eye on their neighborhood they can report what is suspicious in their neighborhood. Suspicious activity may be missed by law enforcement as they are not aware of what vehicle or people belong or don’t belong in a specific neighborhood.
KRL: What are some of the events Neighborhood Watch does during the year?
Cyndee: Participating neighborhoods have meetings or gatherings throughout the year. When a neighborhood wants to start NHW, we have an initial meeting/gathering to get the neighbors together and give information about NHW and the PD. The largest event of the year is Reedley Night Out, which is in partnership with National Night Out. There are two dates for National Night Out, first Tuesday in August and first Tuesday in October. Reedley Night Out is the first Tuesday In October. We choose the October date hoping for cooler weather.
KRL: How do people get involved?
Cyndee: If you’re interested in starting a Neighborhood Watch program, there are plenty of resources to help you get started. Speak to your police department. They’ll be happy to provide you with any available literature or help you contact a local training body. Training for Neighborhood Watch programs emphasizes the following:
How to identify and report suspicious behavior
Safeguarding your home and personal property
KRL: What if there isn’t a Neighborhood Watch in a neighborhood and someone wants to start one?
Cyndee: So what does it take to start and maintain an effective Neighborhood Watch Program? There are five fundamental steps that make this possible:
1. First, strategies that address the problems in a given area must be mapped out. From the beginning stages of a Neighborhood Watch effort, it is essential to incorporate neighborhood involvement and identify ways to deal with the crime patterns of that area.
2. The second step involves building a partnership between law enforcement officers and residents. This is not always an easy hurdle to overcome since citizens are often angry with law enforcement for not doing anything about the crime problem in their community. For a Neighborhood Watch program to be successful, it is essential that officers understand the needs of a neighborhood and work as role models for neighborhood crime prevention efforts.
3. The third step is to assess the needs of a given neighborhood. In many cases, law enforcement and community members do not have the same focus. For instance, law enforcement may be focusing their attention on a problem that the neighborhood is not concerned about, such as attempting to address major crimes throughout the city. On the other hand, community members may be more concerned about crimes such as bicycle thefts or graffiti, which are considered minor from a police standpoint. Effective Neighborhood Watch programs unite law enforcement and residents and encourage them to collectively determine what problems should be addressed and how.
4. Next, selecting and training an active body of volunteers that are led by organized and motivated leaders is critical. Without motivation and organization, volunteers may be uninspired to participate and quit out of frustration.
5. The fifth and final step is to develop meaningful projects. Often, after a Neighborhood Watch has addressed its original issue, members lose interest. It is important for leaders to remain enthusiastic. One way to accomplish this is to create and embark upon new projects so that there is always a goal towards which the team is aspiring. Projects may include building a neighborhood playground or painting over graffiti, for instance.
KRL: Who do people contact for more information?
Cyndee: Cyndee Trimble Friesen 559-637-4250 #248 email@example.com
KRL: Anything else you would like to add?
Cyndee: Today’s Neighborhood Watch Program is an effective means of crime control and neighborhood cohesiveness. While not all of the programs in place today go by the same name, they all accomplish the same goal: to bring community members together to fight crime. “Neighborhood Watch a partnership between Community and Police.”
You can find more of this series in the Reedley section of KRL. We have spoken with the Chamber of Commerce, the Reedley City Manager, Reedley’s Chief of Police Joe Garza, and the Reedley Museum, and the Reedley City Council so far, if there is anyone related to the city that you would like us to talk to mention it in the comments below.