Neighborhood Watch groups celebrate Night Out

Local Neighborhood Watch celebrated improvements in their neighborhoods as two groups held National Night Out barbecues last week.

The Nandina Street Neighborhood Watch, which includes Nandina residents between Ninth and 15th, seems to have seen a decline in the number of calls for service to the area this year, something that Gina Riley, Sweet Home Police Department community services specialist, attributes to the partnership developed between that group and the police.

The 11th and Poplar neighborhood formed over the past year over issues largely stemming from one residence. That situation has been resolved, but the group is continuing.

While they did not participate in the annual National Night Out last week, several new groups have formed and are getting active, Riley said. New groups are operating in the area of 24th and Long and also on Cedar Street off Turbyne, the first two to form from connections made at the annual Jim Bean Public Safety Fair held in June.

Older groups also continue on Strawberry Heights, Mountain Shadows Trailer Park and Foothills Drive.

“At least half our groups are actively holding meetings, some monthly, some quarterly,” Riley said. Their meetings are held either at the Police Department or at residences.

The other half are established groups that maintain a good phone tree for communication, she said. For the most part, the more inactive groups don’t have many problems going on in their neighborhoods, but they maintain their “Neighborhood Watch” signs and retain the networks that the police can use to communicate with residents or that residents can use to help deal with the occasional problem.

Riley points to the Nandina group, similar to Mountain Shadows about five years ago, as an example of the program’s success.

Pinning down exact reasons for decreased activity in the downtown Nandina area is more difficult than figuring out the direct impact of the Mountain Shadows group and its management, which could take more direct action through the eviction process.

The police are getting more information from the Nandina group, Riley said. Its residents are reporting problems sooner, likely heading off criminal activity.

Many of the reports coming from the area are suspicious circumstances, she said, and that good community partnership appears to be paying off in an area that often topped the city for police calls in recent years.

The Poplar and 11th group “is probably one of the most typical Neighborhood Watch groups,” Riley said. They started their group because of an incident.”

The neighborhood had a definite troublemaker, with problems ranging from code violations to blocking driveways and shining lights in neighboring windows, Riley said. The group reported the situation to police and code enforcement. Eventually, the individual causing the problems left the area.

Nearly everyone in the block is active and plan on continuing,

“To keep it safe, and it just feels like it’s a good deterrent for anyone that’s thinking of starting anything,” said Poplar and 11th member Bridget Schaffer.

It also has been nice getting to know neighbors who she and her family may not have known, she said. Before the group started, she probably knew three or four names.

Building a successful group sometimes just takes a little self-confidence on the part of residents, “knowing somebody is backing you up,” Riley said. A woman in the Poplar and 11th group started noticing suspicious individuals people going down to the river at Northside Park every day.

The police went down to the area to see what was going on, Riley said. There were no arrests, but the people who raised suspicions are not coming back any more.

“She was comfortable enough to know that was the right thing to do,” Riley said. “You’re definitely eyes and ears. All you have to do is report it. You don’t have to act on it.”

The police would much rather show up and have the suspicious circumstances amount to nothing rather than have them amount to a problem but go unreported, she said.

As Riley and the police are working with the various groups, they’re finding that many neighborhoods have similar situations, she said.

Neighborhood Watch groups also are growing interested in meeting each other, she said, so this year, she is working on plans to have block captains meet in a Sweet Home council of Neighborhood Watch groups, similar to a countywide council that meets regularly.

The National Night Out was held on Aug. 3 in the two neighborhoods, giving neighbors a chance to get to know each other and show their support for police and community partnerships, Riley said. The event is nationally sponsored by the National Association of Town Watch.

Other sponsors included the Bureau of Justice Assistance and Target, which provided child ID kits, including DNA sampling tools to record identifying information for children.

Anyone interested in more information about Neighborhood Watch can contact Riley at 367-5181.