CON: Neighborhood watches may give citizens a sense of too much power

Jennifer Lee Preyss By Jennifer Lee Preyss

Aug. 18, 2013 at 3:18 a.m.

Refugio Police Officer Bill Schaefer, who has more than 32 years of experience in law enforcement, said neighborhood watch programs aren't the best way to deter crime in neighborhoods.

"Unfortunately, if someone is in a bad enough place to break into your car or home, they may try it," he said.

In Refugio, Schaefer said there aren't many neighborhood watch communities, and none that he knows of that patrol the streets.

"The design was for neighbors to keep an eye out for each other. We never had roaming patrols of citizens," he said.

Schaefer, who has crime prevention officer and inspector certifications, said neighborhood watch programs help residents feel safer in their home, but any real deterrence of crime may be coincidental.

"Citizen watch patrols are basically a feel-good alternative for these gated or high-dollar neighborhoods," the officer said. "Peace officers are stretched thin as it is already, so these residents may feel some security knowing there may be one of their own out and about."

Schaefer emphasized that neighborhood watches are effective only when all neighbors participate equally with the same measures, which isn't likely.

Amanda Smith King, who lives in Victoria County near Raisin, said she doesn't feel the need to launch a neighborhood watch.

"There's a group of neighbors here that watches out for each other, and we feel safe here," she said.

King, a new mother, said a formal neighborhood watch may do more harm than good when giving citizens a false sense of power.

"Like in the Trayvon Martin incident, (Zimmerman) thought he was a questionable subject and thought it was OK to approach him. I don't think he would have done that if he didn't have the backing of the neighborhood. I don't think he would have done what he did," she said.

King said watch programs can give people a sense of false power when the better way to lessen crime in neighborhoods is to know your neighbors and keep an eye out for danger.

"I walk my kid around in a stroller all the time, and I never feel unsafe," she said. "A lot of that feeling is just because I know my neighbors and know who should be here - not because there's a neighborhood watch sign on the front of the street."

PRO: Neighborhood residents need to look out for each other in watches



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