Neighborhood Watch—coming to a street near you?

NeighborhoodWatchOur block had its first Neighborhood Watch meeting in August; partly to get to know our neighbors and work together to make ours a better place to live and partly in response to several recent incidents.  The following are what neighbors reported at that meeting.

Early one morning, after what sounded like a broken bottle crashing, a man was observed running down the street– usually not a big problem. However, a few minutes later after leaving the bathroom near the back of his house, a neighbor heard his window breaking. Apparently this man had gone through a patio gate and thrown loppers through the window. This time observed by the next door neighbor, the man ran. By quickly calling the police, he was apprehended and charged.

In another incident on the block some neighbors found a backpack with a lot of cellphones and a laptop along with several water bottles and a bike. The police were again called. None of this seemed alarming, just very annoying.

At the initial meeting there were eight out of 18 households in attendance. The meeting was run by Mark Wells, Crime Prevention Coordinator, a community organizing specialist with the City of Portland’s Office of Neighborhood involvement. Mark had a lot of information to share and a simple process for organizing our Neighborhood Watch. Anyone on the block or anyone in the proximity chosen to be included was welcome. Mark gathered our contact information and all attendees completed a simple survey of personal needs and special skills or equipment that might come in handy in an emergency on the block.

That’s all it takes to be part of the Neighborhood Watch. We’ll need to meet at least once a year and create a Neighborhood Watch map and phone tree which will be distributed to each member. Mark will help us recruit more folks in the next few months.

Violent crime is way down in Portland, but drug related property crime is very common. Neighbors reported having lawn mowers and equipment stolen even while they were gardening. Car break-ins, stolen bikes and yard theft happen every day.

However, Mark shared some effective ways to deter criminals from coming to our block. He called it the Obnoxiously Friendly method which is encountering every new face you see in the neighborhood in an open, inquiring, friendly way. “Hello, how are you, nice day, what’s up, looks like your enjoying the weather, good to see you, visiting someone or just walking through?” He says this will tell “visitors” that we notice and are aware of who belongs here and who’s passing through. Criminals thrive on anonymity and blending in. If they know they will be noticed, they are likely to take their activities elsewhere.

Mark also says locking our doors makes breaking in harder. Posting Neighborhood Watch film stickers in the window and on the intersections alerts criminals that we notice what’s going on and won’t hesitate to call the non-emergency number for suspicious activity and even 911 when necessary. Reporting more crimes doesn’t mean there are more, just more the Police know about and where they are happening.

Do you know the City’s non-emergency number? This number is answered by the same folks who answer 911 calls. They just use a different procedure and alert a different set of responders.

The NON-EMERGENCY number is 503-823-3333.

By the way, another person in the Office of Neighborhood Involvement, Mary Tompkins, can help you do a safety assessment of your property. They call it Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) for Single Family Housing. Contact Mark Wells if you want to start a Neighborhood Watch on your block. To date we are the third block in Eliot currently to have a Neighborhood Watch. Hopefully more neighbors will sign up to have a Neighborhood Watch on their block. I am looking forward to knowing my neighbors by name and knowing my family is secure in my neighborhood.

Our mission: to organize and
support community partnerships
to prevent crime and the fear of crime



Mary Tomkins

Mark Wells

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