On Wednesday, September 22, the monthly precinct council meeting was packed with about 50 neighborhood residents, many of whom came out to learn about the program and to join.
“You know the neighborhood far better than we do. You’re the first one to say this doesn’t belong – this is why we are embracing your help to combat these issues,” said Dion Harris of the NYPD Community Affairs Bureau, as he explained the program to residents. “The name itself can empower you to bring these issues to our light.”
The precinct is looking for volunteers 18 and over who can contribute to making the community safer.
The program is a revamp of one the community had last year and years prior. Some residents at the meeting were already block watchers, but their identification had expired.
The program was revamped this year because of an increase of crime in the surrounding community.
“When the community works with the precinct, we can help,” said Heidi Chain, president of the 112th Precinct Council.
She noted that lately there has been an increase in robberies of purses and property left in cars. “That’s why we always stress to people to make sure they lock their cars,” she said.
In the past, Harris noted that the program might have failed because of people calling the wrong number with the wrong information. He gave the example of someone calling the desk at the precinct expecting the desk sergeant to attack an issue that he or she might not have the time for, “especially if it’s not particularly a crime.”
“If someone was upset at their neighbor, they’d call," Harris said. "We don’t want you to get personally involved and we don’t want you to get physically involved in any way.
“If we can get away from bringing unnecessary calls, this program can be a big success,” he added.
The program encompasses the entire precinct. Block watchers will be assigned a number that is unique to each precinct. They will be able to call a block watcher organizer, who will most likely be an officer from community affairs, to make note of what they see.
Harris noted that anybody could become a block watcher, even if they don’t live in the neighborhood.
The program is waiting for final approval from Police Commissioner Ray Kelly. When it is approved, a two-hour training will take place at the precinct.
“You will be able to give specific information on what it is you’re calling about,” Harris told attendees. “We’re going to give you tips to help you identify different scenarios and guidelines to follow to put the information together. We will show you how to describe a person, situation, vehicle.”
And block watchers will receive recognition and appreciation of their work, either through certificates or awards.
Deputy Inspector Christopher Tamola urged residents to bring their friends and neighbors to the next meeting, so that more people could become involved.
“If you care about the quality of life and you want to make the community better, this is how you do it,” Chain said.
To find out more about the Block Watcher program, call the 112th Precinct Community Affairs at (718) 520-9321.