A group of Fort Dodge citizens gathered Tuesday to learn how to start a neighborhood watch group. The meeting, sponsored by Well-Informed Webster People, provided insights on why the value of starting a neighborhood watch.
Under Chief Tim Carmody, the Fort Dodge Police Department is making a concerted effort to increase public activism, said Sgt. Joel Lizer, one of the speakers at the meeting.
Presently, there are seven active neighborhood watch groups in Fort Dodge, Lizer said.
"Anything that benefits the citizens of Webster County is okay with (Carmody)," he said.
Lizer was joined by FDPD Patrol Officer Jason Kahler, as well as Dennis Jones, who started a neighborhood watch in the Coleman District south of Fort Dodge, and Larry Osterhout, a Coleman District resident who started a neighborhood watch in Hanford, Calif.
The panel provided tips and advice, including always getting the license plate numbers of suspicious vehicles and not "advertising." - in other words, if you buy a brand new flat screen TV, don't put the box out on the curb for all to see.
The group advocated vigilance above all. The most important thing is to get to know your neighbors, and for them to know you, Lizer said.
"It doesn't do any good to have one person watching everything," Jones said. "If it's a group, you can protect each other."
Lizer said there is no set rule on how large a neighborhood watch group should be. The most important thing is for it to have a strong core group with good organization, and then expand.
The most difficult part is keeping members active, he said, calling it "the biggest pitfall."
"You'd be surprised what you can do if you get the people together," Jones said.
It is also important for the community to have better relations with police officers, and not regard them just as the people who gave you a speeding ticket, Kahler said.
"If something doesn't seem right, call us," he said. "We're out there 24 hours a day."
Even being friendly with sanitation workers helps, because they see things we don't see, said Osterhout.
A neighborhood watch can be whatever a group needs it to be, Lizer said.
"(Criminals) don't want you talking to your neighbor," he said. "If you don't know what's going on your street, it makes it easier for them."
A benefit of the neighborhood watches, according to Osterhout, has been that crimes, specifically burglaries, have gone "way down."
"It's working. We just need to get more of them," he said. "If they find out people's watching, they'll go somewhere else."
Information from the public is always beneficial to helping the police solve crimes, Lizer said.
"I can't imagine the percent of crimes solved with the help of input from the public," he said.
For more information on forming a neighborhood watch, contact Lizer at 573-1426.
Contact Brandon L. Summers at (515) 573-2141 or firstname.lastname@example.org.