CARMEN GONZALEZ CALDWELL
Many of you told me about incidents in your neighborhood and how a crime could have been prevented if you had a phone chain in place as a Crime Watch group after reading last week's article. Although I have written about this in the past, I am more than happy to offer you once again the information.
Neighborhood Watch Criteria and Implementation:
1. When a resident calls our office, we take a request for service, listing to all their information and concerns so that we may forward them to the appropriate law enforcement department.
2. The meetings, which last about an hour, are held usually at 7 p.m. weekdays, a good time for people to be home from work.
3. The meeting preferably is held in the neighborhood at someone's home. This way people can just walk to the meeting. This has been found across the country to be much more effective since the objective is to meet and get to know your neighbors. In some areas, this part may not be possible due to crime issues, so we try to find a safe location nearby for the meeting -- a church, a clubhouse or in some cases, in the middle of the street. For those who live in apartment buildings, we have held meetings in parking lots.
4. Once a meeting date has been established with the police officer and the host, a flier and brochure are provided to be distributed to neighbors. English, Spanish and Haitian Creole versions are available. This is to inform everyone of the meeting; the brochure speaks to the implementation of Neighborhood Watch.
5. The night of the meeting, the police officer and someone from my office attends. The officer provides information regarding crime trends, crime statistics, his role as a community officer and what his department is doing to assist the community.
He also discusses alarm issues as well as how and when to call the police. The officer teaches residents what information is needed when calling police about a suspicious person or vehicle. The officer also answers questions.
6. Our coordinator explains how to set up a phone chain -- a collection of phone numbers, addresses and special needs or information pertinent to their homes. When the phone chain is completed, it is shared with all neighbors participating in the crime watch.
This is the most crucial part of Neighborhood Watch because it's how everyone stays in touch, as you witnessed from last week's article. Once the above is completed and the Neighborhood Watch is organized, we then provide Crime Watch signs, house stickers and T-shirts. All of this is paid for with your tax dollars.
Implementing a Neighborhood Watch is not easy. It takes dedication and ``sweat equity,'' but as the thousands already involved will say, it's the best thing that can happen to a neighborhood.
The above steps may differ for some municipalities that implement their own programs. If they don't have a Neighborhood Watch program, give us a call and we will be happy to supply you with some crime prevention materials.
Carmen Caldwell is executive director of the Citizens' Crime Watch of Miami-Dade. Send feedback and news for this column to her at carmen@
citizenscrimewatch.com, or call her, 305-470-1670.