Police take proactive approach to crime

Published 8:25 pm Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Washington Police are giving new life to an old idea by encouraging local neighborhoods to start, and maintain, a community watch.

One community — the Hillcrest neighborhood — has stepped up to the task and now law enforcement officials are hoping others will follow their lead.

“We’re trying to kick off a big campaign and get the communities involved in community watch programs,” said Kimberly Grimes, outreach coordinator with Washington Police and Fire Services. “We’re trying to break ground with them (Hillcrest), hoping it will motivate people to actually take part in it and better their community.”

Police and Fire Services Director Stacy Drakeford has been pushing the idea of community watches since last year, and believes that residents being proactive is a critical to preventing crime.

“If we want to have an impact on criminal behavior then the community must come together as one. It’s not just a police issue. It’s not just a community issue. It’s everyone’s issue,” Drakeford said. “We can’t stop all criminal behavior, but we can have a significant impact on it.”

Grimes said she and other police officials lead prospective community watch organizations through the required steps — choosing block captains and a president to which they report — and walk them through the steps necessary to being an effective community watch.

“They are the eye for their neighbors,” Grimes said. “You know your neighbors. You know if you’re seeing a lot of traffic and it’s not normal, you know there’s something going on. … We’d rather them call us and it be nothing, than not call us and it be something.”

“It takes us back to a time where everybody in the community watched out for their neighbors, for their neighbors’ property,” Drakeford said.

While community watch organizations are strictly volunteer, Washington Police Department is footing the bill for the community watch signs and posts and window stickers.

“It’s really taking off, but we want to keep the momentum going,” Grimes said. “The more we can get the community involved, the more we can cut down on crime in the city.”

For more information about starting a community watch, call Kimberly Grimes at 252-943-1715.