GANDER, NL – Progress has been slow, but establishment of a dedicated Neighborhood Watch program in Gander is moving forward.
While crime rates are considered stable – with RCMP responding to 2,500-2,800 calls per year – crime is still a concern for residents.
According to RCMP stats, the number of break-ins decreased from 73 in 2015 to 45 in 2016. Up to the end of September 2017, Gander experienced 45 – including 19 residential – break and enters.
On the direction of council, the town’s municipal enforcement department has been tasked with getting a Neighbourhood Watch program off the ground to offer another level of security in Gander. Two sessions have already been held. Five people attended the first session, and 10 – including a portion of council – were at the second.
Corporal Wanda-Lee Jenkins of Municipal Enforcement said the sessions are a grassroots approach in deterring and preventing crime.
She pointed to Ogilvie Street as a prime example.
Jenkins said residents on the single street near the outskirts of town had issues with criminal activity and formed a watch group to help reduce illegal activity.
And it works.
“It’s an opportunity for residents to get involved to prevent some of their neighbourhood crimes and vandalism,” she said. “Because crime is not just a police issue, it’s a community issue as well.”
Jenkins said there has been a tremendous social media response in favour of forming a community watch program as well.
“And we are hoping those social media numbers can be brought to the information sessions as well,” she said. “Even if they don’t want to get involved in the sessions, we are open to any form of communication.”
Nelson Osmond has lived on Yeager Street for five years. He’s never been a victim of a break and enter, and he’s willing to do his part to keep it that way.
He attended the first session and returned to the second meeting with others signed on to form a Neighbourhood Watch in his area.
“In the past there have been two or three break-ins on the street, so we were very interested in setting up a safety net of neighbours to look out for one another,” Osmond said.
So far five homes have signed on and another five homes have expressed interest.
“So we are hoping to have 10 to start with,” he said.
Jenkins will continue to work with the Yeager Street group by following up with a meeting and providing starter kits, window decals and signage.
Municipal Enforcement is also looking for a community champion in the form of a president/watch commander to help promote the program.
Anyone interested in the Neighbourhood Watch program can contact Jenkins via email: firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone: 256-4065.
To know about Neighbourhood Watch
Community based crime prevention program to reduce and deter crime by encouraging strong neighbourhood relationships.
Responsibilities - Learn who your neighbours are, attend Neighbourhood Watch meetings, imply security measures, teach children respect for the law.
Prevent crime, but not assume role of police officers nor chase suspects.
Members report to a block captain.
Block captains report directly to the RCMP, however, members can contact police if there is an emergency such as a break and enter in process.
RCMP and Municipal Enforcement have final say in structure of the program.
Town provides funding and resources – through Municipal Police.
Requires 10-15 homes in the view of each other to form a watch.
Doesn’t have to be confined to a single street, it could also include off streets.
Street signs and window decals define watch areas.