Our neighborhood watch

Published 6:21 pm Monday, May 2, 2022

Recently on one of our morning walks, Milt and I passed a neighborhood that had a Neighborhood Watch Program. A Neighborhood Watch Program is a group of neighborhood residents who look out for one another. The goal of a Community Watch Program is to give potential criminals and troublemakers the feeling that people in the neighborhood are watching them and that they can be reported to law enforcement for their suspicious activity.  The community watch participants work together to partner with law enforcement through the resident’s participation in helping secure their homes and keeping a watchful eye on their neighbor’s property, keeping their neighborhoods clean, improve the environment where they live, and give the neighborhood’s children a sense of wellbeing and safety.

Milt and I both laughed when we thought about the ‘Neighborhood Watch’ program that patrolled our neighborhoods and kept surveillance over us when we were growing up.  There were no organized neighborhood watch programs back then, but you would have thought there was. Some of the neighbors where I grew kept a watchful eye over the block I lived on and had better detective skills than Columbo.  They made sure the kids stayed out of trouble, kept the yards neat and streets free of candy wrappers and other trash.

Once when I was eight years old, I was walking home from the neighborhood candy store with a handful of Mary Jane candies. I was munching away, leaving a trail of candy wrappers.  Nobody was on their porch as I walked by, but by the time I dropped my third candy wrapper, I heard a voice booming from a window “pick those candy wrappers up, NOW!”  I walked back and started picking up and was then told, “while you’re at it, pick up every piece of paper you see on the ground from here to your own house!”

It was a steaming July day and it seemed like there were a million pieces of paper on the ground. Funny how I hadn’t noticed it before. There was at lease fifty Atomic Fireball candy wrappers, a lot of Kits wrappers and don’t let me get started on the popsicle sticks.

I knew if I didn’t pick them up, I would be in trouble for being disobedient when an adult neighbor told me to do the right thing. It was a very hot job, but I think I was hotter than the sun itself because I didn’t drop all that paper. I had only dropped three Mary Jane wrappers, but I had to pick it all up.

The ‘neighborhood watch’ seemed to know everything you did. If you were walking anywhere during school hours, you got the third degree from the adults as to why you weren’t in school and you had better have a signed note from a parent to show them.

When we would go to Philadelphia for summer vacation for three weeks, my parents only had to tell certain neighbors we would be out of town. Our house had better security than Brinks Alarm Company with the neighbors watching.  People could leave their bicycles, lawn mowers, baby carriages and everything else in their front yards at night and nobody bothered them.

My mom could go to work and tell us not to go outside until she came home.  If my sisters and I even dared to venture out the door to go into the yard to get anything, an unseen neighbor would yell, “get back in that house, your mama ain’t home yet!”

Once when I was in the 11th grade, four friends of mine, one of whom who had a car, decided to skip school and go to Griffin’s Beach. We got in the car near King Chicken, and we bent over in our seats as not to be seen from the windows. No one was visible in the car but the driver.  We got down to the beach, not a soul was in sight. We sat up in our seats, listened to the radio for a while, ate the snacks we brought with us and headed back to campus as the school day was ending. We went home as usual only to be confronted that “somebody had reported that we were at the beach.”  I was grounded for the summer, and I couldn’t go anywhere except church. Today, I have come to realize what a blessing the ‘neighborhood watch’ was back then. It kept us kids out of a lot of trouble.