(by Lisa Grazier, Guest Columnist - March 20, 2009)
Sick of the bad news that seems to be everywhere right now? The Blockwatch Beat has the cure - get outside, join a community group, and spend time with neighbors and friends!
A blockwatch is the perfect way to do that. It gets you out to meet people on your street, helps to fight crime and neglect and brings a community together.
It is easy to feel like you don’t need anyone when times are good; but especially when it is difficult, we must reach out to each other and offer a helping hand.
Blockwatches do the following:
•Get people connected and looking out for each other. This is not the proverbial nosy neighbors spying on each other, but the reporting of suspicious activity. Knowing your neighbor’s schedule and what vehicles are supposed to be in their driveway can make the difference between a break-in that is successful and one that is thwarted.
•Establish a positive working relationship with the Columbus Division of Police. When you set up a blockwatch through the Strategic Response Bureau and are assigned a police liaison officer, you are being proactive. Learn the difference between calling 911 and the non-emergency number, 645-4545.
•Draw the community together for a common goal. Blockwatches are a good way to get to know people through the shared desire to rid your neighborhood of crime and make it a safer community.
•Open up new opportunities. Citizen Police Academy is a unique program through the police department. It is a class designed for residents and blockwatches to get an overview of different areas within the police department and see how they are trained. It is free and a wonderful opportunity to get a bird’s-eye view of how the police function in different capacities.
•Empower people. It is difficult to live in a neighborhood where you feel powerless against drug dealers and other illegal activity, or where you feel that your safety is compromised. Blockwatches help you to feel like you have the power to take back your neighborhood through hard work and policing.
•Bring about renewal and change through other avenues. With an established blockwatch in place, you can bring other programs into your neighborhood. Start a cleanup or apply for a grant for beautification of your street.
An important component of blockwatching is keeping in mind that everything is interconnected. Have problems with drug dealers in abandoned homes? Work with the city and code enforcement to get the homes boarded up and extra police presence on the block. Keep the trash cleaned up and remove the graffiti in the neighborhood. Illegal activity moves in where there is a vacuum. Fill that vacuum with a community garden and something to keep the neighborhood children involved in a healthy activity.
It is hard, but nothing worthwhile is achieved easily or quickly! Let’s work together to take back our neighborhood.
Lisa Grazier is coordinator of the Camp Chase Blockwatch.