When people vacate homes due to the economy and leave behind foreclosed properties, crime sometimes moves in. But the Henderson Police Department is offering neighborhood watch programs to educate communities on the warning signs of attracting crimes.
“Putting signs up saying you have a neighborhood watch isn’t enough,” said Keith Paul, a spokesman with the Henderson Police Department. “A neighborhood watch is most effective when a concerned neighbor looks out for their neighbor.”
Depending on the neighborhood’s size, a neighborhood watch group can be as big or as little as the community wants.
“An ideal neighborhood watch would have everyone (in the community) involved,” Paul said.
Getting as many people as possible involved helps.
“If criminals see people walking around in a big group, they aren’t going to stick around,” Paul said. “They look for easy targets.”
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
Paul said some signs that a squatter has moved in include running water or lights when there shouldn’t be, broken doors or windows or excess debris in the yard that could come from a trespasser.
“If you notice these things, contact the police,” Paul said.
Neighbors can help by making sure lawns are maintained or clearing trash at foreclosed properties.
But having multiple foreclosed properties isn’t the only thing that can make a neighborhood more vulnerable.
Paul said people also should take steps to make sure their currently occupied houses are safe.
Paul recommends simple tips such as making sure people have a light on or remembering to shut the garage door at night.
If neighbors go out of town, ask if they want someone to park a car in the driveway to give the impression that someone is home.
Crime prevention can be as simple as people learning who their neighbors are. That way, they can be aware of unfamiliar cars driving around.
“If you don’t know who your neighbors are and you see someone taking furniture out of a house, you’re not going to know if they are robbing it,” Paul said.
TOOLS TO USE
Paul said Henderson police looked for a social media network to give people a way to prevent crime from the palm of their hand .
In August, Henderson announced that it had partnered with AlertID, which allows neighbors to connect with one another and law enforcement to enable them to prevent and report crimes.
“It essentially is an online neighborhood watch,” Paul said. “It is important, but nothing will ever replace a true neighborhood watch where you have neighbor looking after neighbor.”
AlertID also allows people access to information about registered sex offenders and missing children.
The free service is just one tool of the police department and of watch groups. Residents can sign up at alertid.com.
The watch group is taught to prevent crime but not to interfere by taking on perpetrators or entering into risky situations.
“We don’t want people to get involved (in physically stopping the crime),” Paul said. “We encourage them to be good witnesses.”
Paul said it is easier to find out that a crime happened because a neighbor suspected that a house was being robbed and called police rather than someone coming home to an already-burglarized house .
Residents who want to set up a neighborhood watch program can call the community relations unit at 267-5100.
Contact Henderson/Anthem View reporter Michael Lyle at email@example.com or 387-5201.