What is a Blockwatch?
All blockwatches will be different but we all have the same basic goals:
•Lower crime rates throughout the entire Hilltop
•Safer and drug free streets
•Improved living conditions for all and cleaner neighborhoods
•Better neighbor to neighbor relations and better community relations
•Create a more desirable community and improve property values
The blockwatch is the eyes and ears for the police. The police cannot control crime alone. They need the help of an alert and concerned public. Safe streets and neighborhoods are everyone’s concern and a blockwatch provides a means for everyone to be responsibly involved in the fight against crime.
The blockwatch establishes a formal network for citizens to exchange ideas and information with their neighbors and with the police, city code enforcement and Columbus Division of Fire, as well as all other official city agencies.
Perhaps we should mention a few things a blockwatch doesn’t do. We don’t become vigilantes. We do not confront criminals or suspicious people – that is a job for the police. We are not busy-bodies that peek over fences or listen at windows, but we don’t close our eyes when we see something wrong either.
There is a good quote by Edmund Burke that says, “All it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.”
A good blockwatch doesn’t sit back and do nothing.
How each blockwatch goes about accomplishing their goals will depend on the community, but I can tell you how The Great Western Blockwatch works. We have public meetings once each quarter where citizens are given the opportunity to talk directly to police officers and local officials. We try to have a special topic for each meeting. Plans are already in the works for the annual “Night Out Against Crime” picnic and an Internet safety presentation.
A blockwatch is not limited to public meetings. Coordinators and block captains as well as all citizens are encouraged to stay in contact on a daily basis. Anytime you see something suspicious, please let your blockwatch know. We are here to help anytime there is a problem, but we can only help when we are kept informed.
We also work closely with code enforcement, helping to clean up neighborhoods and bothersome eye-sores that every street seems to have.
The modern blockwatch helps with all neighborhood problems no matter how big or how small. A blockwatch may have many resources that aren’t available to the general public.
Those are the basics of all blockwatches, but most don’t stop there. We’ve become the neighborhood mediators for small disputes. We take an active interest in helping the elderly and other people in need in our areas. Something as simple as asking a block captain to drive an elderly person to the drug store for their medication is a common occurrence. We offer help to victims of crimes in any way we can. We try to keep the community informed with crime reports and things to watch for. Those signs that say “Blockwatch Area: Criminals Beware” really do mean that people are watching.
One of the best ways to know when something is suspicious is to get to know your neighbors. Blockwatches host many neighborhood events where you can do just that. Some events coming soon to the Hilltop include:
•Spring Clean-up Day for the Great Western Blockwatch area, May 17 at 10 a.m., at Hoge Memorial Church on West Broad Street.
•Westgate Park clean-up and spring planting through the Camp Chase and Westgate blockwatches on May 17 from 9-12 and every second Sunday from 4-6.
•Sullivant Avenue clean-up through the South Ogden Avenue Blockwatch, April 26, at 10 a.m., meet at John Burroughs Park, behind John Burroughs Elementary
•Great Western Blockwatch Spring meeting. The Columbus Division of Fire Arson Unit will give a fire safety presentation on May 8 at 7 p.m. at the Hoge Memorial Church on West Broad Street.
•Community Yard Sale, put on by the Great Western Blockwatch, June 27-28
Of course these events are open for everyone to participate. Your neighbors from other streets will appreciate your support.
Blockwatches on the Hilltop have high success rates. As an example, The Great Western Blockwatch has proven itself with the arrest of numerous drug dealers, drunk drivers, and even wanted felons that were living right here among us.
We have been successful in persuading uncaring landlords to clean up their properties and helped tenants improve their living conditions. We have put pressure on many more drug dealers to leave the neighborhood. Crime still exists, as it does in any neighborhood but we are making a difference.
Please take the time to participate in your blockwatch by attending meetings and talking with your block captain. Every blockwatch can always use more members and more block captains. If you are interested contact the coordinator of your blockwatch. You too can make a difference.
Jay McCallister is coordinator of the Great Western Blockwatch.