In the 1990s, neighborhood residents are taking more initiative in preventing and solving crimes. One way we are doing it is with Community-Oriented Policing, a program where citizens become partners with the police.

A key part of the COP plan is forming a Neighborhood Crime Watch group. “People have to get involved and report crimes and suspicious activity. The police can’t do it all,” says Sr. Cpl. Margaret Chandler, who used to supervise groups in the Lake Highlands/Northeast Patrol area.

Setting up a neighborhood crime watch group is easy, under the guidance of an officer at the Northeast substation (670-7747). Tell them you’re interested in starting a crime watch group. Using predetermined boundaries, they will direct you to an existing group or issue a new area, based on the department’s crime statistics reporting areas.

A manual, “Residential Security and Neighborhood Crime Watch” will help prepare you for the first meeting.

Successful crime watch groups have good communication between their members and the police. Newsletters, word-of-mouth and a voice mail system help keep members informed. The voice mail system should be used to let other members know about crimes or suspicious activities that have been reported to the police.

Chandler says all suspicious activity, with good descriptions, should be reported through 911.

“People are intimidated by 911,” she says. “They must learn to use it and not call their substation. With 911, the dispatcher can broadcast the information immediately to those officers on duty.”

At the first crime watch meeting, the area chairman, section coordinators, and block captains are selected and several procedures are reviewed. Among the tips: Get to know your neighbors and be able to identify their vehicles by sight; mark all property for identification by using the “Operation Identification” program; and keep a map of the immediate neighborhood.

Chandler says crime watch groups have worked well in a number of cases, from well-publicized cases such as the now-arrested “phone line gang” to less violent residential burglaries. Chandler credits groups with helping to reduce crime.

“Each citizen is a significant piece of a big jigsaw puzzle,” she says. “Just by looking out the window and reporting anything suspicious will help. That’s part of being an active crime watch person.”