Saturday, March 31, 2012

Urban Resources: Community Watch

Against the backdrop of the shooting involving a neighborhood-watch volunteer last month in Sanford, Florida, this subject seems timely.

First, a little background: my wife and I are active in our local crime watch. It's a private effort, separate and distinct from the official community-watch program managed by our county sheriff's department.

Applicants for the sheriff's volunteer program are trained in basic protocol and procedures. If accepted, they're issued identifying clothing (cap, polo shirt and jacket) and patrol in radio-equipped marked cars.

Our group, by contrast, holds regular information-sharing meetings and leaves the rest to residents' interest and discretion. Mrs. KintlaLake and I often cruise the streets near our house and monitor nearby city parks, and we keep tabs on our neighbors.

We're crystal-clear about what we're legally empowered to do: observe and report. We don't pursue and we don't engage.

We have no authority to enforce the law -- we're not cops, nor do we aspire to be. We're simply citizens of this community, taking responsibility for a measure of its security.

Long-time KintlaLake Blog readers will recall that both my wife and I hold CCW permits, and yes, we carry when we're moving through our community to take note of goings-on. Then again, we always exercise our concealed-carry privileges, whenever and wherever possible.

(The sheriff's community-watch volunteers aren't permitted to carry firearms while on-duty, by the way.)

Getting involved in a crime-watch group (or forming one) is a good idea, in my opinion. A few suggestions:
  • Know the law -- local, state & federal.
  • Don't fly solo -- maintain your independence, but enlist the participation of other members of the community.
  • Involve law-enforcement authorities -- communicate, collaborate & cooperate.
  • Watch out for eager-beavers, cop-wannabes & vigilantes -- a crime-watch group isn't a posse.
  • I repeat: observe and report -- don't pursue & don't engage.
  • Avoid divulging too much information about your own family's safety, security & preparedness plans to other members of your group.
Now more than ever, we need to take care of our communities. As long as we're smart about it, we needn't be intimidated by the shit-storm in Sanford.