JEFF WATERS, CHIEF of police for the Town of Emerald Isle, with the support of Mayor Eddie Barber and Town Manager Frank Rush, proposed establishing a Neighborhood Watch Program (NWP) in the town in January 2014. A committee of volunteers was formed to implement the program town wide with the full cooperation from the town’s staff.
For years various models of NWP’s have been used throughout the country. Citizen volunteers and community leaders hope to enhance safety and security by bringing police and citizens in closer cooperation in crime prevention. Some models impose some quasi-police type tasks which include small groups of citizens. This type, in many cases, can negatively affect the population support. In fact, some cases have resulted in tragic confrontations between citizens and criminals thus discrediting this approach to the NWP.
In Emerald Isle, the NWP model tested on one of the community’s streets for several years is now being implemented throughout the town’s 300 plus streets. The model is referred to as “passive” which means citizens simply become the eyes and ears of the police. In Emerald Isle, however, the town has expanded the scope of citizens’ participation in ways which helps them help themselves and their neighbors plus promotes a better relation with the police and the community at large.
Participation is open to permanent residents and also for distant owners, long term renters and even visitors. A one page, 10 paragraph Quick Reference Checklist (QRL) is provided to all citizens to help reduce crime. Visitors are informed of the program through a police prepared form which realty companies are asked to pass on with the lease agreements.
This QRL covers areas of how to protect your home, valuables in and outside of the house, how to secure property during hurricanes, how to ask police to patrol an individual’s home when away from town, asks citizens to report street lights requiring replacement, and delineates procedures to report suspicious and criminal activity. If you do not have a QRL, contact the police department at 252-354-2021.
A volunteer group of citizens called “captains” has been formed in order to provide contact with streets and properties. These captains have been cleared by the police and issued badges to strengthen their relationship with their neighbors and visitors. They are provided printouts of every property owner name, address and phone numbers so they can be contacted in case of an emergency. This data is strictly safeguarded and is not shared by these neighborhood captains. Only statistical data is provided to the program’s committee members, a group of 15 volunteers headed by a chairman and vice chairman/secretary.
Their mission is to supervise and certify captains and their streets. We have every document and procedures computerized. To declare the town a Neighborhood Watch Community, the committee was required by the police to certify 85 percent of all town streets that its property owners and long-term renters had received the QRL’s. This was done in one year from January 2014 to January 2015.
Now the committee has pledged to work at sustaining the program for the long term. When it formed, the NWP found some citizens were reluctant to welcome the idea. However, with the new leadership model by Chief Waters, this attitude has completely improved.
Besides the NWP, the chief has also established two additional programs which also have helped to provide additional communication between citizens and the police. Police Educating the Public is a monthly conference covering important and interesting topics and Coffee with a Cop, a monthly social event in different restaurants and coffee shops throughout Emerald Isle to give citizens the opportunity to meet and speak with police officers.
By: Col. Irving Monclova (USA Ret), NWP Chairman