Janesville neighbors are on the watch
Cars were getting broken in to. It looked like strangers were lingering in an empty house.
Instead of second-guessing themselves, the neighbors decided to ask the Janesville Police Department for advice.
Twenty neighbors met Friday night in the group’s first neighborhood watch meeting. They were joined by three officers from the Janesville Police Department, who listened to the neighbors’ concerns, offered advice and promised to be supportive of the watch group.
Community service officer Kellie Pearson is leading the department’s efforts to revive neighborhood watch programs across the city.
She brought a 17-page list of calls police made in and around the neighborhood in 2009.
Usually, those reports are only four or five pages, she said.
Most of the crimes were break-ins, burglaries and thefts, according to police data.
“Those are pretty preventable crimes,” Pearson said.
Block captain April Palmer made fliers and invited 50 families to Friday night’s meeting. The watch will include the blocks of Barham, Purvis and Myra avenues between Frederick and Washington streets a few blocks south of Riverside Park just west of the Rock River.
All it took to start the watch group was a call to the Janesville Police Department, Palmer said.
“It was really quite simple,” she said. “It only took about two weeks to get organized.”
The city will post neighborhood watch signs for the Purvis Avenue group.
One hundred neighborhoods are listed as having watch groups in the city, but only about 15 are active according to department standards, Pearson said.
To be active, a neighborhood must meet at least once per year and assign a block captain to head up the efforts.
Neighbors also are encouraged to create a phone tree to share information.
But make sure you’re sharing facts, not rumors, Pearson warned the Purvis Avenue group Friday night.
“There’s a big difference between sharing information and scaring your neighbors and gossiping,” Pearson said.
The officers assured the neighbors that it’s always better to err on the side of caution when deciding whether to call the police to report a possible crime.
“We can’t do anything if we don’t know about it,” officer Bradley Rau said.
One neighbor suggested keeping a log and e-mailing it weekly or monthly to officers rather than calling daily to report non-emergency problems.
The officers reminded the residents that safety comes first. Leave the investigations and the confrontations to the professionals, they said.
“Avoid confrontation in whatever means or manner possible,” Rau said. “Sometimes, confronting somebody will only escalate the situation.”
Three Janesville Police Department officers met last week with a group of 20 neighbors living near Riverside Park on Janesville’s west side. Officers are willing to meet with other groups interested in starting a neighborhood watch program.
Here are some basic safety tips from officers:
-- Don’t leave valuables in your car, even if you’re only going to be gone for a minute. Don’t “hide” them under a blanket or a seat.
“When you put that purse under a blanket, you’re not really hiding your purse,” officer Kellie Pearson said. “You’re basically saying, ‘Steal my purse.’”
-- The most common things taken from cars are electronics of all kinds, cigarettes and loose change.
-- Make a list of the valuables in your home. Take pictures and save serial numbers. Keep the list in a safe place.
-- Use the “nine house model.” Imagine your house in the center of a tic-tac-toe board. The homes in the squares around yours are your “safety perimeter.” Meet with those neighbors, agree to keep an eye on each other’s houses and exchange contact information.
-- If you choose to carry pepper spray, make sure to practice with it before you have to use it. Get your heart rate up before you practice in order to imitate an emergency situation. Buy the pepper spray can that makes a stream, not a fog.
-- Maybe you’re not sure if you’re witnessing a crime, or you don’t want to bother police. Call the Janesville police non-emergency number, (608) 755-3100, and let police professionals decide how important the activity is, officer Brad Rau said.
“It can’t hurt, and it might help,” Rau said.