The Seguin Police Department recently got its Neighborhood Watch program up and running again.
Seguin Police Crime Prevention Officer Carlos Contreras said the nation-wide program is designed to bridge the gap between the community and the law enforcement.
“The neighborhood watch program is made to give all residents the ability and the necessary tools to be able to recognize when something may not be right in their neighborhood and report it to their local law enforcement,” he said. “We are working to open the lines of communication between us and the citizens we serve. They can help us out by contacting us in regards to suspicious persons or any criminal activity that could be happening. “
One local neighborhood — Oak Village North — has already begun the program, with the help of resident Skip Skonnord.
“We had our initial meeting, and everybody came out,” he said. “Then, we were trying to establish a set of communication, so if something went wrong in the neighborhood, we could let other residents know about it.”
Since the first meeting, Skonnord has seen a rise in interest from his neighbors on getting involved, especially through the social networking site Next Door.
“That has been the mainstay for this whole program,” he said. “It is kind of like a Facebook, but just for our neighborhood. We have 100 people out of 150 on Next Door.”
The site allows residents to post about what’s happening in the neighborhood or to share information, Skonnord said.
“People sign up if they want, they don’t have to,” he said. “They can put down anything they want their neighbors to know about — suspicious people, things that happen, lost dogs, cats. I would urge everybody that is looking at this program to get Next Door set up, because that is how it works. We communicate through that.”
While some residents are joining the social networking site to get involved in the neighborhood, there are a few who are going a step further.
“Two weeks ago, we had our first official training for the Neighborhood Watch,” he said. “We had about 35 people. There was a lot of stuff we already knew, which were friendly reminders, but there were some things we didn’t know. We got a refresher on the do’s and don’ts of what you can do. They stress not being a hero. Call the police and let them do their job.”
Skonnord said they were also given reminders of how to avoid becoming a victim.
“They also told us about leaving lights on, closing garage doors, bringing stuff in, don’t leave cars unlocked,” he said.
The main lesson that Contreras wants the community to get it, is to not sit back and wait.
“In their meetings, they talk about what they are taught, which is not to be vigilantes,” he said. “We want our residents to be pro-active and help out the police department, because if we don’t know anything that is going on within the city, we can’t help. But, we also don’t want anybody to take the law into their own hands.”
One of the best ways to do that Contreras said is to get to know those who live in the neighborhood.
“We want our neighbors to know each other,” he said. “If they know each other it is easier for things to be communicated or expressed. It also allows them to recognize who is supposed to be there and who isn’t.”
A notion Skonnord agreed with.
“A program like this is wonderful, because before this, the only way you knew anything that was going on, was if you happen to talk to your next door neighbor,”he said. “Two and a half blocks down, we didn’t know what was going on. It has opened up a whole line of communication.”
Currently, Skonnord’s group is planning for the August 2 National Night Out event to help bring OVN residents together.
“We don’t know what we are doing yet, but we are going to get out, do a little eating, meet more of our neighbors and try to get 100 percent participation,” he said.
For information on Neighborhood Watch Program, visit www.nnw.org or call Crime Prevention Officer Carlos Contreras at 830-401-2360.
“We are trying to get the program out there for other neighborhoods around the city, so that way other citizens can come together and unit to help us fight crime,” he said. “Programs like this help us disseminate any kind of information that may need to get out, whether it is through our Facebook or other social media.”