Neighborhood Watch Groups Help Police Prevent Crime
These days, police officers are depending more on citizens to be the eyes and ears in their neighborhoods. Reno Police say officers have been responding to more home and car burglaries, many in neighborhoods that don't usually see that type of crime. Budgets are tight and Reno Police have fewer officers on the street, but they say neighbors can really help each other.
Reno Police officer Tim Broadway outlines the types of crimes they're seeing. "We have window-smash burglaries, door-kick burglaries in the residences. During the winter we have a lot of vehicles left running with the keys in the ignition that get stolen," Broadway says.
Police do have one weapon that's very effective against crime; it's neighborhood watch programs. The programs teach people how to make their homes more secure, and what to say to police if they see something suspicious.
"Neighborhood watch teaches people how to report, how to give a description, head to toe, inside out; outside garments to inside garments," says Reno Police Officer Donna Robinson.
One of the most active neighborhood watch groups is in the neighborhood west of Wells Avenue. Barrie Schuster is co-captain of the group, which has been active for about 5 years. "Knowing who our neighbors are, where they live and knowing to watch out for them, it's made a huge difference," Schuster said.
There are about 32 active neighborhood watch programs in Reno, that's down from more than 50 a few years ago. Reno Police say the programs help catch criminals as well as prevent crime. Schuster agrees.
"I think the success of our group is we've received training from the police department on the correct way to report crimes and so a lot of people don't know what to do if they see something happen," Schuster said.
Schuster says police give presentations to neighborhood watch groups, including tips like keeping your property well lit, so it looks like someone's home. And knowing what police can't do is also helpful.
"People have a lot of misinformation based on TV shows," said Robinson. "No we cannot finger print a rock. Sorry," she said chuckling.
Robinson said there is one important tip police have for neighbors who are on the watch: "Neighborhood watch is eyes and ears only. Observe, listen, report. Do not take action on your own."