Columbus County’s Community Watch Program was implemented in 1978 under Sheriff Clayton Norton as a crime prevention program aimed at involving a total community.
The Community Watch Program flourished in its early years, receiving the Governor’s Award in 1980. However lack of participation and interest led to the decline of the program over the last decade. But the program has once again taken aim and is becoming one of the best in the state.
The program focuses on encouraging community members to form watch groups in given areas and to report anything suspicious or out of the ordinary in their area or neighborhood(s). During regularly scheduled meetings, members discuss issues regarding security of their homes and neighborhoods. Members are encouraged to participate in projects such as property identification via marking, photographing and most importantly, listing all of their valuables. Members are then encouraged to place their lists in a very safe place. Members are also asked to participate in home security checks, these participants are given advice on how different types of locks and doors can help delay or withstand kicking or prying by suspects attempting to gain entry.
The general purpose of the program is based on the concept of people looking out for one another. At the same time it lets potential criminals know that someone is watching out for them. This is the foundation for crime prevention. The opportunity, desire and ability to commit particular crimes are reduced at a specific location and time. This creates an atmosphere that is conducive to deterring overall crime.
This program takes teamwork and effort on everyone’s part, including law enforcement.
WHAT IS COMMUNITY WATCH?
COMMUNITY WATCH is a Crime Prevention program that involves citizens working with each other and with the Sheriff’s Office to reduce crime and victimization in their communities.
1. Citizens protecting themselves and their property by using common sense crime prevention practices.
2. Neighbors getting to know each other, watching out for each other and acting on or reporting suspicious activities.
3. Citizens working with groups, community leaders, and, more importantly, law enforcement agencies to make entire communities safe and free from crime.
CITIZEN ALERT, NEIGHBORHOOD WATCH, BLOCK WATCH, or COMMUNITY WATCH:
the names may differ, but the idea is the same. Neighbors looking out for each other.
WHY START A COMMUNITY WATCH?
Because law enforcement officers cannot be on every street corner, citizen involvement is necessary to combat crime. On average, there are approximately two law enforcement officers for every 1,000 citizens. You and your neighbors are the ones who really know what is going on in your community. By cooperating with each other and with the police, citizens can help fight crime in the most effective way – preventing the victimization of themselves, their families and friends. You are the key element in fighting crime. GET INVOLVED!
COMMUNITY WATCH WORKS
The goal of COMMUNITY WATCH is to make criminals aware that every move is being watched and will be reported to the police. Across North Carolina, citizens work together to secure their homes, mark their valuables, identify drug dealers, develop child safety programs, and improve the environment in which they and their families live.
TO START A COMMUNITY WATCH
1. Contact the Crime Prevention Officer with the Columbus County Sheriff’s Office about setting up a COMMUNITY WATCH program. Lieutenant Dwayne Barnes can assist with information, materials and technical advice. Lieutenant Barnes can be reached at 910-642-6551 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
2. Schedule a meeting with your neighbors in a church, home, community building, volunteer fire department or other location.
3. Invite the Crime Prevention Officer or other law enforcement officer to speak at your original meeting to help get your COMMUNITY WATCH program started.
4. Contact every resident in your community and invite them to the meeting. Do this by making door-to-door visits, phone calls, or mailing flyers.
5. Hold your meeting.
HOW TO MAINTAIN AN ACTIVE COMMUNITY WATCH?
1. Regularly scheduled neighborhood meeting allows members to be kept up-to-date on “what’s happening” in their neighborhoods.
2. From time-to-time have neighborhood/community get-togethers. Have a big social at a member’s house and get to know one another better. Meetings are for business and some socializing, but the cookouts, barbecue, softball games and picnics have a more personal effect and aid in building a strong sense of community.
3. Finally, have days when all members of the community come out and help “clean-up” the area. Take the time to walk the streets and pick-up trash, brush and other items. Also, if a neighbor needs help with maintaining their yard, get together and help as a group.
COMMUNITY WATCH WORKS WHEN PEOPLE GET INVOLVED AND STAY INVOLVED IN COMMUNITY WATCH ACTIVITIES
Additional Watch Programs
Community Watch Signs
You may wish to purchase signs that identify your community as a place where citizens look after each other. Your local law enforcement agency will be able to assist you.
There may be some specific crime problems in your neighborhood that your Community Watch group wants to target. Educate your members on such topics as:
Drug Abuse Prevention
Sexual Abuse Prevention
Child Abuse Prevention
Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design
… and many others. Don’t limit yourselves!
Criminals gravitate to places where they feel safe and secure. They avoid neighborhoods where they are likely to get caught. When they are neither wanted nor welcome, they go someplace else. Start a COMMUNITY WATCH program today!