In the 1990s, neighborhood residents are taking more initiative in preventing and solving crimes. One way they are doing it is with Community-Oriented Policing, a program where citizens become partners with the police.

A key part of the COP plan is forming a Neighborhood Crime Watch group. Sr. Cpl. Joe Walden has seen a tremendous increase in crime watch groups throughout Dallas in the eight years he has been with the Dallas Police Department’s crime prevention unit.

Even without a formal group, Walden says: “Most people already practice crime watch. It’s nothing more than being a good neighbor, like in watching someone else’s property when they’re out of town.”

Setting up a neighborhood crime watch group is easy under the guidance of Walden (670-8787). Tell him you’re interested in starting a crime watch group. Using predetermined boundaries, he will direct you to an existing group or issue a new area, based on the department’s crime statistics reporting areas.

A manual, “Residential Security and Neighborhood Crime Watch” will help prepare you for the first meeting.

Walden believes that motivated “go-getters” are key to keeping a crime watch group up and running.

“Lots of groups are set up when an area experiences a crime problem,” he says. “Everyone is really interested. The police solve that crime and move on. Once people believe the crime problem ceases to exist, interest in the crime watch group drops.”

At the first meeting, an area chairman, section coordinators, and block captains are selected, and several procedures are outlined. Get to know your neighbors and be able to identify their vehicles by sight; mark all property for identification by using the “Operation Identification” program; and keep a map of the immediate neighborhood. Use 911 for police assistance or to report a crime.

Walden recommends each crime watch be organized by blocks, under a block captain. A good crime watch needs an entire recording area, maybe up to 120 homes or eight blocks.

“One of the biggest problems with neighborhood crime watch is that people just want to work with people they know,” he says.

To benefit from crime statistics, which are sent monthly to each crime watch neighborhood, the area chairman must maintain good communication with the police. The area chairman is the direct link between the crime watch group and the police department, Walden says.

Crime watch groups have worked well in a number of cases, from well-publicized cases such as the now-arrested “phone line gang” to less violent residential burglaries, police say.

“Each citizen is a significant piece of a big jigsaw puzzle,” one officer says. “Just by looking out the window and reporting anything suspicious will help. That’s part of being an active crime watch person.”

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