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Beginning in 2012, the Springfield Police Department will install new neighborhood watch signs in various neighborhoods throughout the city. You've probably seen neighborhood watch signs before, but as KSMU’s Samuel Crowe reports, the new ones going up around Springfield are the first of their kind in the country.
[SOUND] birds chirping
Right now, I’m in the Victims Memorial Garden at the Phelps Grove neighborhood park, just south of the Missouri State campus. The leaves here in the park are just about to reach their peak autumn colors, and many people are outside right now, jogging or playing with their children, trying to soak up this beautiful fall morning. Early next year, the Springfield Police Department will be rolling out some new signs in neighborhoods like this one as part of its effort to cut down on crime. Officer David Snider is a Crime Prevention Officer with the Springfield Police Department.
“What we’ve done is we’ve actually taken a photograph, an actual police officer in uniform, a police officer from Springfield, put that officer on the sign itself along with two citizens. We just want to show that there is a relationship between neighborhood watch and the Springfield Police Department. It is an effort between the citizens and the police to communicate, to convey their concerns, and then we can give them an answer or we can give them a remedy for one of the problems that they have,” Snider said.
So how do neighborhoods go about getting these new sign installed on their streets? Snider says a neighborhood association must contact the police department. Next, members of these associations must attend neighborhood watch training sessions, during which homeowners will learn how to effectively work with their neighbors and police to report and prevent crime. And the third step, as Snider explains, is for each homeowner to conduct a self-assessment.
“We want the folks to go out and look at their home from what they’ve learned in the program and go through the list of things that we recommend. Recommendations could be anything from lighting to replacing strike plate screws in the door, replacing the inch and a quarter, inch and a half screws with three inch screws, which makes it more difficult for someone to kick a door in in a sense,” Snider said.
Once an association completes these three steps, the police will install the new metal signs in the neighborhood free of charge. Snider says the Police Department has done its homework, and officers believe that putting a set of eyes on a sign will impact the behavior of criminals.
But Snider says the signs do come with a price: The neighborhood watch groups must remain actively involved, and can't rely solely on a sign to keep criminals at bay.
“If you’re not active, or you do not remain active within in this time frame, with this particular association or program, we are going to take the sign back,” Snider said.
Darlene Steele, a neighborhood watch block captain with the Grant Beach Neighborhood Association, agrees with Snider. She says under the new citywide neighborhood watch program, the neighborhood watch committees will have to elect officers and create bylaws. She says some homeowners are upset with how pro-active they now must be to get these new signs. Those are the ones, she says, who still think a mere sign will prevent crime.
“It’s not going to help lower criminal activity unless you put something behind the sign, unless they know you’re actually trained, and that you know what needs to be reported and that you’re watching out and that you’re in communication with the police. By having the new signs, I think that will indicate that more, but some people aren’t really seeing that. They want the sign without the responsibility, I think is what a lot of it is,” Steele said.
The training sessions are on a first come, first serve basis, and will begin in January. Anyone who's interested in the new signs should call the Police Department at 874-2113. For KSMU News, I’m Samuel Crowe.