South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

 
 

By Tom Smith
South Pittsburgh Reporter Editor 

All that's needed to start a block watch is three or four neighbors

 


All that’s needed to start a block watch is three or four neighbors, Liz Style, Operation Weed and Seed Coordinator in the city’s Office of Neighborhood Initiatives, told members of the Carrick Overbrook Block Watch.

“It’s a public safety group that’s generated from the neighbors because there’s a problem in the neighborhood and the residents want to take care of themselves. They want to take care of the community. They want to take their community back,” she said.

Forming a block watch is easy, Ms. Style explained. First, get a few neighbors in a block together then call Zone 3 Crime Prevention Officer Christine Luffey or Councilwoman Rudiak or the Mayor’s Office. It’s important to form a relationship with the police.

“They get to know you, you get to know them and that’s what helps to reduce crime.”

She told the group a personal experience she had this summer in her neighborhood, South Side Flats away from Carson Street. Saying their problems aren’t the same as near Carson, she added their neighbors always said “they don’t need a block watch. We all know each other. We all know when someone’s on vacation. They pick up trash and did clean ups without an organization, they just did it. ”

Ms. Style explained her husband and another neighbor decided to form a block watch. National Night Out was their first event and 30 people showed up for the celebration.

“They [their neighbors] were so happy that somebody had done something,” she said.

That’s really the spirit of the block watch, getting to know people Ms. Style continued.

“You may think the crime in your neighborhood isn’t worthy, but I can tell you, it is.”

Ms. Style explained the number one reason for starting a block watch it to make the neighborhood safer.

Some of the groups use Facebook pages for their block watches, but she recommends Next Door (www.nextdoor.com) – a website designed specifically for block watches. One of the differences is Next Door allows users to make conversations private.

Another tool developed by the city is Block Watch in a Box, a step-by-step how-to guide for neighborhood residents to get a block watch started.

The Block Watch in a Box has “specifically general” information in a binder including: the city’s 2012 Annual Police Report; a how-to guide to planning a National Night Out event; start up resources such as police resources, helpful telephone numbers and available city services.

There’s also information on presentations and workshops, training and networking opportunities, funding sources and planning fundraisers.

Block Watch in a Box is available by registering on the city website’s Public Safety page: http://pittsburghpa.gov/publicsafety/bwib/register or by contacting Ms. Style at 412-255-4772 or elizabeth.style@pittsburghpa.gov.

Another area Ms. Style touched on, was providing free Neighborhood Watch signs for block watch members. There are two sizes available: a smaller size ideal for putting in residential or store windows and a larger weatherproof and graffiti resistant size made to be mounted outside on poles.

The larger signs, when approved, are installed by Public Works in areas designated by the block watch.

Ms. Style recommends block watch members get together and decide where they would like the signs to be placed before contacting her. One consideration she mentioned was to make sure the signs are put in the right place. Too many signs in an area my send the wrong message, that the neighborhood isn’t a safe place for visitors or potential new residents.

Groups requesting signs should contact Ms. Style at 412-255-4772 or elizabeth.style@pittsburghpa.gov to meet with the block watch to discuss why and where the signs should be up. The number of the signs received will depend on the area the group covers.

A small block watch of only a few blocks may only need three to five signs, a larger group could need as many as ten.

Public Works will post the signs in the selected locations within two to three weeks of the approval of the request.

 

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