PRO: Neighborhood residents need to look out for each other in watches
Victoria Police Crime Prevention Officer John Turner made a pitch to residents of Victoria's Lake Forest subdivision about two weeks ago, attempting to get them excited about a new neighborhood watch program.
The meeting included instructions on how the program works and what would be expected of them to organize, including assigning block captains who would be responsible for taking security-related calls from neighbors who lived on their block.
"We don't have as many active ones as I would like," Turner said, mentioning Victoria's 51 registered neighborhood programs. "Ideally, I'd like to see one in each neighborhood."
Turner said the potential for crime is everywhere, in every neighborhood, and he has seen firsthand how neighborhood watch programs deter crime.
When he was on patrol before joining the Crime Prevention Unit, Turner said, a neighborhood watch program in one of Victoria's higher crime areas had a captain call repeatedly for about six weeks about loitering, suspicious people selling drugs near her home.
"She knew they didn't belong there, and after a few weeks, those people left. They were probably tired of the cops showing up," Turner said. "Now, granted, they probably didn't leave town, but they're not using that area anymore for illegal activity."
Liz Moloney, of Victoria, also agrees neighborhood watch programs are useful and necessary for preventing crime as well as assisting with possible emergency situations.
"Sometimes, first responders can't get there right away, and the people living in the neighborhood know best what's unusual or shouldn't be there," said Moloney, who may attempt to launch a watch in her neighborhood this year. "It's about neighbors helping neighbors."
In recent months, Moloney said her neighbors have experienced some minor criminal mischief as well as some other home break-ins toward the back of her neighborhood.
"We all make a point to look out for one another, and that's what's important. It's not about being a vigilante," she said.
Turner said the only way a neighborhood watch program can go wrong or result in unexpected crimes is if the people involved in the neighborhood watch are not following the guidelines of the program, or if they're criminals themselves.
"The more people involved, the better," Turner said. "My goal is to get these programs going and active all over town."