Neighborhood watch patrol

Tom Linehan [Email address: allandalereporter #AT# - replace #AT# with @ ]

How about an Allandale neighbor patrol to deter crime? Sound far-fetched? That is what Barton Hills Neighborhood Association (BHNA) has done. John Luther, BHNA’s neighborhood crime watch coordinator talked about this novel approach with other neighborhood watch coordinators around the city at Saturday’s Crime Safety Meet-Up at North Village Library.

BHNA started the resident patrols back in December. The volunteers simply drive around the neighborhood looking out for suspicious behavior. The patrols run both during the morning hours, when home burglaries are most often committed, and late evening hours when car burglaries occur. Volunteers drive a one hour shift using their vehicles bearing Neighborhood Watch Patrol signs. Is it working? It’s a little early to say however it clearly shows a determined effort to reduce crime within Barton Hills.

There were about 40 people in attendance at Saturday’s meeting organized by Allandale’s Neighborhood Safety Coordinator, Laura DiCarlo, Krimelabb’s Jack Darby, and Mary Arnett, author of Friends of North Shoal Creek E-Newsletter, a bi-monthly newsletter that provides summaries of crime data for the North Shoal Creek area.

After introductions, Mary invited representatives from the various neighborhoods to share with the group how they organize their neighborhood watch efforts. The result was a collection of best practices that can be applied to all neighborhood crime watch efforts.

1.23 Laura DiCarlo started off by talking about Allandale’s block captain network. Her goal is to have a block captain for every 10 houses in Allandale. She emphasized the importance of communication. Know the people on your block, have their contact information, and communicate suspicious activity.

The approach neighborhoods take to setting up a neighborhood watch program varies from not having one to having a neighborhood patrol like Barton Hills. Neighborhoods differ in size, demographics, and mix of owner-occupied vs rental units. All of this factors into how a neighborhood watch program is set up. Gracywoods’ approach is to recruit as many volunteers as possible, have them look out for 5 residences, and report suspicious activity to one of their three neighborhood coaches. Mary Rudig from Gracywoods encouraged the group to keep it simple. She asks volunteers in her neighborhood to keep an eye out for the neighbors on either side of them and on the three homes across the street. That is all. They have motto: “be alert and do the 5.” The A.L.E.R.T. is actually an acronym to remind volunteers of what to do when watching out for their neighbors.

David David Kobierowski with Balcones Civic Association talked about the value of people just getting out of the house. There is no better deterrent than being visible and showing activity in the neighorhood.

Other tips that came out of the forum included:

  • Keep an active listserve where neighbors communicate. Rosedale reported they have 1,200 members on their listserve and they use it heavily to convey suspicious activity.
  • Have a good relationship with your APD District Representative and communicate with them regularly. The north sector’s district representatives were both at the meeting and responded to questions at the end of the forum. They were very supportive of the gathering saying their involvement usually occurs after a crime has been committed not in preventing crimes. Prevention is where neighborhoods can make a big difference.
  • Stay current on crimes in the neighborhood and know whether they are going up or down. Jack Darby with Krimelabb gave a demonstration of his crime information web site that let’s users see what crimes are occurring and where. It is so helpful that the district representatives at the meeting commented on it and said they use it themselves.
  • The two District Representatives at the meeting, Officers Kelly LaHood and Troy Schouest, provided some additional tips and encouraged people to attend the upcoming Commanders Forum, February 2nd, at McCallum HS.

Laura DiCarlo said the point of Saturday’s meeting was to link neighborhood leaders in this area for ongoing collaboration and forming  a collective voice. With the number of cars and homes being burglarized in Allandale, finding out what works elsewhere is valuable.

Plans are to keep it goin. The next meeting is scheduled for February 27th at Ruiz Library.  Those who came will be e-mailed a survey and the direction of the group will be developed from feedback obtained.