Block Watch Organizing 101

Heather Welch
Special to Northeast News

During a recent community meeting discussing the increased number of homicides in Historic Northeast, a neighbor lamented that we do not have ShotSpotter, the gunfire sensing technology that exists in other parts of the city. Captain Ryan Mills of KCPD replied that we have something better than ShotSpotter; we have you. Sure, ShotSpotter pinpoints the time and location of gunfire, but it doesn’t hear the car speed away, or see the direction it took. It won’t see the woman fleeing. It will not hear the victim’s screams of pain or the thankful silence when lives are spared. The best crime prevention device isn’t a technology product, or even a well-funded police force; it’s a good neighbor. Many good neighbors working with local law enforcement creates a formidable crime-fighting team. When neighbors organize these efforts, a Block Watch is born.

A Block Watch requires three simple things. Find a group of neighbors who are committed to report all suspicious activity to 911, the KCPD non-emergency number (816) 234-5111, or to a neighbor acting as the spokesperson for the group. Next, agree upon a method of communication such as a phone-tree, text messages, email, a private social media group, or a combination of these. Last, create a map or directory of your neighbors with spaces for names, addresses, and phone numbers.

There are many benefits of a Block Watch. Neighbors who communicate regularly care more about each other and are more willing to watch for suspicious activity. As you and your neighbors become more observant and speak regularly about the activity you see, you’ll notice patterns of behavior and will be better prepared to spot criminal activity. You’ll also feel more secure knowing that your property is being watched over by neighbors when you are away.

Sometimes, concerns about a specific house or person are best reported directly to KCPD through your Community Interaction Officer(CIO), who can investigate further. Upon request, your CIO will also train your group about how to recognize suspicious behavior, when to call the police, and ways to make yourself and your property safe and more secure. As you and your neighbors become more educated, you reduce the risk of becoming the victim of a crime and become better prepared to respond to suspicious activity.

Block Watch signage is another benefit that deters criminals looking for easy targets. Signs tell criminals that you and your neighbors are on the lookout and report suspicious activity.

The block watch will naturally lead to opportunities to address other issues of concern with your neighbors, from the latest election issues to fire prevention, first aid, city planning, housing codes issues, or whatever else might come up. Those working relationships can lead to rewarding personal relationships; it feels good when a neighbor calls good morning or throws you a wave as you drive by.

Many of the neighborhood associations in Historic Northeast have established Block Watch groups that are eager for more help. Please contact Mary Cyr at Northeast Alliance Together (816) 581-5662, to find what Block Watch is close to you.

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