Posts tagged ‘neighborhood watch’

1,000 CrimeReports Fans on Facebook!

Today, CrimeReports has reached 1,000 fans on Facebook. It was slightly less than a month ago that we announced 500 fans, but thanks to our enthusiastic users, CrimeReports is growing like never before. We are extremely pleased to have so many supporters across the US and Canada who want to get involved in neighborhood crime prevention by working with their local law enforcement and using CrimeReports.

Thanks to everyone who has made this possible by spreading the word, talking to your neighbors, and working with local law enforcement to keep your neighborhoods safer.

Get even more information and links by following us on Twitter: @crimereports.

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September 11, 2009 at 10:34 am Leave a comment

Preventing Abuse of Power by Civilian Law Enforcement Volunteers

The Wall Street Journal—in the Economy section none-the-less—is reporting that the economy has caused a significant increase in civilian volunteers working with law enforcement:

“The National Association of Citizens on Patrol, a Corona, Calif., nonprofit that promotes civilian volunteerism in law enforcement, says there are about 5,000 citizen patrol units working alongside police departments in the U.S., up 25% from 2008.”

Although getting more citizens involved in crime prevention efforts by partnering with local law enforcement is normally a good thing, the recent surge in civilian patrols has also created some problems. The Wall Street Journal reports that a handful of communities are having problems with civilian police volunteer going overboard in their duties by hitting citizens with cars, firing at suspects, threatening neighbors, and (in at least one instance) killing a neighbor’s dog.

Citizen Involvement is a Good Thing

Let me first reiterate: citizen involvement in law enforcement is a good thing. Neighborhood watch groups and civilian volunteers help keep our neighborhoods safe and assist law enforcement to conduct low-level duties, saving tax dollars. But every once in a while there is a bad apple, a person who lets their minuscule amount of authority go to their head and abuses the position they have been given or assigned.

Leave Law Enforcement to the Officers

It is important to keep in mind that, even though we have been tasked with patrolling a neighborhood to keep it safe, the authority to enforce the law rests squarely on the shoulders of our local law enforcement officers. Under no circumstances should a civilian volunteer or block watch captain take the law into their own hands.

Our Responsibility as Citizen Volunteers

As civilians, we have the ability to observe and report crime, but not to enforce it or punish suspected offenders. And simply because we may have been given some responsibility by our local law enforcement agency, it does not mean that we have any power over any other civilian.

Overly-eager civilian volunteers or overly gung-ho block watch captains who take measures beyond their assigned duties harm community watch efforts. Going beyond mandated duties and powers breeds a mistrust of civilians on the part of law enforcement and dissuades other citizens from getting involved with community-based crime prevention efforts.

As a rule of thumb, if you are a civilian volunteer, always err on the side of backing off and alerting police to a situation rather than trying to deal with it yourself. Escalating a situation only leads to community mistrust in civilian volunteer efforts and could result in harm to you or other community members.

Lets work with law enforcement—be their eyes and ears on the street—but not try and BE law enforcement.

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September 11, 2009 at 7:30 am Leave a comment

Rooting Out Sex Offenders, Taking Responsibility For Our Own Neighborhoods

Although the story of Jaycee Lee Duggard has put local law enforcement under the spotlight, and the local police chief has admitted errors, there is one group that hasn’t received much criticism at all for its mishandling of the situation: the neighbors.

Neighborhood Suspicions

I’ve read and heard about the many neighbors who thought Phil Garrido was creepy. And many of them suspected he was probably doing something bad or illegal. In fact, I have read accounts that neighbors even suspected sexual acts were being committed in the backyard, and that children were being kept back there. On one occasion a neighbor called the police, but nothing came of it, so they let the matter drop.

Why didn’t these neighbors—who knew Garrido was a sex offender—voice their concerns earlier or follow up with the police officers? Maybe it was for fear of wrongly accusing an innocent man, or maybe they just didn’t want to get involved.

Taking Responsibility

As citizens in our communities it is our duty to keep our neighborhoods safe. Granted, police have the specific duty to enforce the law when it is broken, but they cannot do their jobs without our help.

One of the lessons we need to take away from this unfortunate case, is that WE are ultimately responsible for the safety of our community—not law enforcement. We need to break out of our shells, talk to our neighbors, and communicate our concern with them. Knowing that other people share our concerns, makes it easier to report crimes, and work together to keep our neighborhoods safe.

If an incident is not resolved to your satisfaction, contact your local law enforcement agency again. Talk to your neighbors and start a coalition to resolve continuing concerns with law enforcement or the local city council, if necessary. I recently heard a law enforcement officer say that if you strongly feel that something is not right, but your neighbor has an 8-ft fence, get a 10-ft ladder and see for yourself what is going on.

Ultimately, ceding our neighborhood protection duties to law enforcement leaves us without control over our own homes, families, and communities. The police cannot be in all places at all times, be we are in our communities all the time. Let’s take responsibility, get involved, and take back our neighborhoods.

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September 8, 2009 at 7:00 am 2 comments

Design Your Neighborhood Against Crime

Lately, there has been a widespread trend toward use of web 2.0 tools and social media in law enforcement. Although these tools are great for communication and maintaining connections between citizens and law enforcement, they—in and of themselves—will not decrease crime significantly. Sure, web 2.0 crime mapping can provide an advantage to neighborhood watch groups, but public-facing crime mapping will not necessarily reduce crime if it is not coupled with a variety of other personal crime-prevention strategies.

What we’re talking about is not simply looking at the results of crime, through crime mapping, statistics, and sharing crime tips through Facebook, but using that information to target physical aspects of the community that encourage crime. For neighborhood watch groups this means not just watching out for crime, but actively paying attention to physical aspects of your community that may increase chances for crime.

Physical Aspects of Your Neighborhood

Look around your community. How many neighbors have their porch light on at night? How many lawns look unkempt? How many houses have bushes under their windows? How many houses have large windows facing the street? How many houses have fences? The answers to these questions may help you root out some aspects that make your neighborhood more attractive to criminals.


Overall street appearance, like nicely manicured lawns, attractive bushes, and accent lighting, sends a message to criminals that the homeowners care about their property and keep an eye on it—and might have security systems. Unkempt lawns and neglected trees and shrubs, are a sign that maybe other aspects of the home are untended too, like door and window locks.

Street and porch lighting deter criminals who generally don’t want to be in the spotlight. And, coupled with street-facing windows, make criminals feel uncomfortable, like they are being watched and could easily be identified.

At first, you would think that high fences would keep criminals out, but that is not always true. Waist-high fences or shrubs lining your property actually provide two benefits: they act as a barrier that is awkward to cross, and they give you street visibility. With high fences, you won’t know a criminal is coming until he hops the fence or enters the gate. With a waist-high barrier, you can them coming from a mile away.

Finally, there is a very simple way to block access to your windows, plant thorny bushes under them. I know it sounds kind of silly, but faced with the prospect of pushing his way through a thorn bush to get to your bedroom window, most criminals will pass your windows up for easier targets.


These are all aspects of your property and neighborhood that you can control. Talk to your neighbors about implementing strategies to deter criminals before they even get to your house. In addition, you can talk to your city council about street-lighting issues as well as public signage (like neighborhood watch signs) and other physical aspects of your neighborhood that are city property.

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September 4, 2009 at 8:00 am Leave a comment

Neighborhood Watch Uses Social Media to Stay in Touch

A neighborhood watch group in West Valley City, Utah, was recently profiled in the local news. Through emails and Facebook, this neighborhood watch is able to stay informed and keep themselves safe. Check out the video below.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

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September 3, 2009 at 11:11 am Leave a comment

Indiana’s ‘Silver Alert’ Helps Find Missing Adults

Although the nation’s Amber Alert system is widely publicized and used when a child goes missing, Indiana’s new “Silver Alert” is helping to find wandering seniors who suffer from dementia, Alzheimer’s, or other mental illnesses.

The new alert system was put into place on July 1st and has already been used five times to locate five individuals. “We needed something to alert the public when those with Alzheimer’s or other illnesses wander,” said Melissa Barile, the Alzheimer’s Association’s regional director in Fort Wayne.

For grown children of aging parents, a system like this helps give peace of mind that there is a structure in place to help locate and rescue missing persons with serious mental conditions and bring them back safe. If your state does not have a Silver Alert system, support legislation that would put one into place.

Read more about the system here:

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September 1, 2009 at 10:53 am Leave a comment

20% of Employers Deny Citizens Access to Police through Social Media

According to ScanSafe, 20% of employers are now blocking social networking sites on their company internet. Granted, employers feel that Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, and others social media websites can be horrible time wasters; however, they can also be great informational tools, especially if you follow your local government or law enforcement agency through them.

As more law enforcement agencies begin to use social media for critical information, these sites gain a legitimacy that they have not had in the past. Social media information is changing from “I’m eating a ham sandwich” to “Recent string of burglaries in Maplewood: make sure to lock your doors and windows.”

And as these sites begin to be more important sources of real-time information, employers could find themselves at the wrong end of a backlash from citizens and law enforcement who want to give and have access to vital information. For example, besides giving safety reminders, many police agencies will send out traffic information that gives citizens an idea of where accidents have been, so they can avoid them on the drive home. As well, some agencies have sent information through social media about school closings, city emergencies, and other important events that citizens need to know about as soon as possible.

Blocking access to this information could be an increasing concern for employers as more and more people and law enforcement agencies begin to communicate through social media and share legitimately important information.

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August 27, 2009 at 12:36 pm Leave a comment

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The views expressed in this blog are those of the individual contributing bloggers and may not necessarily reflect the official or actual opinions of CrimeReports, its parent company Public Engines, or any of its employees.


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