According to the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office, being a good observer is one of the key issues of maintaining a successful neighborhood watch.
"You (the residents) are the eyes and the ears of the area," said Deputy Joe Vince at the Dec. 12 village of Urbancrest neighborhood watch meeting.
To test the observation skills of those who attended, the deputy put the residents through an exercise to see if they could be a good witness. He divided them into two groups; one being the witnesses, and the others being police officers to take their reports.
The witnesses were asked to look at a projection slide that depicts a cartoon crime scene for 20 seconds and take notes with their eyes. After those 20 seconds were over, they had to give their initial observations to the citizen police officers and compare what they saw.
The actual cartoon showed a masked man running out of a City Bank around noon, carrying a Thompson submachine gun (or a Tommy gun), and a sack full of money. The perpetrator was running towards the getaway car, an old Cadillac complete with fins, a busted headlight and hanging Ohio license plates.
Most of the male witnesses noted with accuracy the make and model of the car and the type of gun used, while the females focused on the clothing the cartoon robbers were wearing and the aesthetics of the car, such as the hanging license plates and busted headlight.
"This is a very interesting exercise because everyone sees things from a different perspective," Vince said. "There were a lot of details in the drawing and everyone was aware of and looking for different things.
"It’s a really good exercise to help everyone prepare to become a good witness."
Even though the deputy did not let the witnesses write down what they were seeing during that exercise, he stressed the importance of jotting down the details to give to the police if they do see or suspect suspicious activity in their area.
"Write everything you see down," said Vince. "Pay attention to the person’s sex, race, height, weight, clothing, hair color or anything else they may have, such as tattoos."
He also said if there is a suspicious car in the neighborhood, pay attention to the make and model of the car, the color or any other distinguishing characteristics and if you can, jot down their license plate number.
"We can get a lot of information through a license plate number, so if you can see it, write it down," he said.
Vince added that there is more to a block watch than just reporting crime.
"It brings neighbors and neighborhoods together," he said.