Is Local Community Watch Working?

Dothan, AL - Signs in Dothan’s Garden District urge drivers to watch out for children, but criminals beware. Residents are watching out for you.

“Observe and report is the biggest thing you can do. If you see something suspicious report it, let the police decide whether or not they’re criminals,” said Community Watch member Boyd Clark.

There are twenty other groups around the city just like this one. They are having an impact on the crime rate. There also 15 other Community Watch groups in the process of the being activated.

“I was kind of surprised it was such a drastic drop,” said Dothan Community Watch Program Coordinator Corporal David Schwab.

He sat down and analyzed crime reports from the last three years.

In 2012, crime spiked for the city, but during that time crime dropped actually dropped in areas with an active community watch group.

It's been a steady decline from 112 reports in 2011 to just 87 reported in 2013.

“It was about a 22 percent drop. This program is going to have an impact on the community. The way we’re doing it, it’s not just a crime watch. It’s a community watch. We’re trying to get people involved in their community and to know their neighbors,” said Schwab.

That includes an online community for the Garden District. Clark said one of their best forms of communication has been a Facebook group.

“It’s the new age of sitting on your porch and talking to your neighbors and I truly think it works,” said Clark.

Officials said the lower crime rate could also be from the training they provide. That includes how to secure your home and reporting suspicious activity.

“A lot of people think that they are bothering us, by calling us, but you’ve paid for our services. We’re here to answer those calls as they come in,” said Schwab.

“There’s only so many police, and they can only be so many places. It’s our jobs as human beings and neighbors to do our part and make sure we’re letting folks know when someone suspicious is around,” said Clark.

Leaders hope in the next three years to have more groups formed, and also to see a consistent drop in crime in those neighborhoods.

If you are interested in starting a watch group in your neighborhood call Cpl. David Schwab at (334)793-0230.

There is no charge to participate, and groups can be as or as small as needed.

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