Monday, January 30, 2012

Learning to Combat Crime One Block at a Time

Allen Minster, Lafayette Sq (Left) and Ian Keith, Benton Park
Janette Lonsdale
• Thu, Feb 24, 2011

More than 70-concerned city residents from 10 neighborhoods turned out on Wednesday Feb. 23, to learn how to beat crime one block at a time.

The Neighborhood Watch class was led by Sergeant Catherine Dennis of the St Louis Metropolitan Police Department at the Lafayette Park Methodist Church in Lafayette Square. It is one of the largest gatherings she has addressed.

Sergeant Dennis encouraged participants to look out for each other, pay attention to what is going on around them and report anything that looks or feels wrong.

“It is most important to know your neighbors and know what is going on around you,” said Soulard participant Lisa Otke at the end of the meeting.

Dennis explained that not only do different witnesses see different things, but also it is easy to get things mixed up.

“Write it down,” advised Sergeant Dennis. “Make as many notes as you can as quick as you can. Even a little detail can help us.”

In addition to looking out for details of height, weight and personal appearance, Dennis encouraged participants to make a note of the direction a person or vehicle is traveling, whether the person might be armed and details like whether a vehicle is a van with a sliding door, or an SUV.

Dennis recommended using the phonetic alphabet for calling in license plate numbers using names such as Frank for “F”, George for “G” and Ocean for “O”.

“I don’t care if you associate it with your own name,” she said. “It is no good if you say B but the dispatcher thinks you said D.”

When phoning in an incident to the 911 services, Dennis advised the group that the dispatcher would ask a series of questions that will begin with the nature of the emergency, personal details and location.

The dispatcher will also ask if you are in danger and what happened when and where. He will also want a description of those involved.

“In many cases the dispatcher is already in contact with an officer when you speaking to them,” said Dennis. “So be patient, wait for them to ask more questions and give as much detail as you can.”

According to Dennis, people are creatures of habit and that makes it easy for criminals to know their victims routine such as when they go out or where they walk the dog.

Leaving the house at a different time, taking a different route and changing things up could make a big difference.

It is also important for everyone to know his or her neighbors insisted Dennis. In the class participant’s pack, Dennis drew attention to the Neighborhood Watch Institute Block Map.

The map is drawn on graph paper and includes not just a list of buildings but details such as the color of the house; the occupants contact information and the correct address.

Vacant homes and compass directions are also marked. In the case of a suspicious event, the map contains a great deal of key information the police will need.

“The class was excellent,” said April Breeden. “The overall message is that we have to get to know each other.”

Ian Keith, a Benton Park resident, said it is all about getting involved. He felt the large turn out was a good sign.

“The Sergeant said when 20 people sign-up for these classes, she is often lucky to get four turn up,” said Keith.

Lafayette Square Security & Mobile Patrol Chairman Mike Petetit organized the Neighborhood Watch class. The square’s successes in tackling crime in 2010 with a combination of neighbors looking out for each other, mobile patrol and victim advocacy has encouraged volunteers in Lafayette Square to share their lessons learned with other neighborhoods.

Soulard’s Safety Committee Chairman Christina Coleman expressed not just interest in the Neighborhood Watch techniques but also in the victim advocacy work and she is keen to incorporate many of the tried and tested elements at work in the square into the work already being done in Soulard.

The Neighborhood Watch Institute

National Neighborhood Watch Institute, NNWI, is dedicated to supplying Crime Prevention Materials to aid in the reduction of criminal activity both Domestically and Internationally.

We offer a cohesive Neighborhood Watch program involving: training materials, window warning decals, work sheets and quality street signs. Additionally, we have been the first to offer Homeland Security street signs. NNWI also offers Operation ID decals and property logs. All our products are designed to assist the crime prevention professional, as well as the public, in the process of crime prevention.

We strive to provide excellent educational materials and products that build observation and reporting skills, as well as signage warning of the obvious presence of crime prevention activities.

For more information:

Sgt. Dennis, SLMPD:

Mike Petetit, Lafayette Square Security & Mobile Patrol Chairman: Email:   Phone: 314 374-4264

The Neighborhood Watch Institute:

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