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Smith County Crime Prevention
Community Watch Program
Decades ago crime rates across the U.S. increased at an alarming pace. Citizens and law enforcement agencies focused on developing crime prevention programs to help reduce this growing trend. In 1972 The National Sheriff’s Association organized the National Neighborhood Watch Program. This pilot program was funded by the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration of the U.S. Department of Justice and was designed to enlist the participation of citizens with law enforcement to help reduce and prevent crime.

Since then Neighborhood Watch has become one of the most effective means of fighting crime in our communities. This is because you and your neighbors are the ones who really know what is going on in your area, most likely to be the first to see a crime and call for help, and are in the best position to:
  • Report code violations, unsafe street conditions, etc. that degrade the quality of life in your area,
  • Take property owners to small claims court to abate nuisances,
  • Keep your block clean and free of graffiti, and
  • Provide a safe environment for your children.
Our Nation and Communities were built on the strength of our citizens who encounter situations every day requiring them to be the Eyes and Ears of Law Enforcement. Community Crime Watches are simply neighbors looking out for neighbors. Community Patrols may consist of a healthy walk with a spouse, friend, or neighbor.

The #1 Crime Prevention Tool is a Curious and Watchful Neighbor !!!!!

How do you start and maintain a Community Watch Program?

Talk to your neighbors. See if there's interest in forming a Community Watch Program in your area.

Talk to your Sheriff's Office Community Relations Officer (CRO) (if you are outside the city limits) at (903) 590-2600 or use the online form found on the Contact Us tab to request information.

Talk to your neighbors again. Tell them about the benefits of a program and the problems to be addressed. Ask about convenient times and places for the first meeting. Be sure to mention that Community Watch Program does not require frequent meetings or personal risks, and ask that the Sheriff's Community Relations Officer be invited to the first meeting to answer questions.

Planning the first meeting. Select a date, time, and place for the first meeting. Invite the CRO. Meetings are usually held at a home, school, church, or community center. Send out meeting announcements a few weeks ahead of the date. You can distribute fliers, make phone calls, or send emails. Send out reminders a few days before the meeting.

Prepare an agenda and sign-in sheet for the first meeting. Ask the CRO to talk about the crime and disorder problems in your area, how to get crime statistics and crime prevention information, and how the partnership with the Smith County Sheriff's Office (SCSO) will work. The meeting should last about one hour. Consider providing refreshments, e.g., cookies and coffee. The agenda should allow time for questions, answers, and other topics.

The First meeting. The first meeting is critical in forming of a group. All attendees should introduce themselves and sign a sheet with their names, addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses so they can be contacted about future meetings and activities. They should be assured that their personal information will not be given to anyone without their permission. The CRO will talk about the topics listed above and answer questions. Then the group should define the area to be covered and select a Block Captain or Co-Captains.

The area covered by a group in a neighborhood with single-family homes can range from several homes on one side of a street to several blocks with homes on both sides of the streets. The area can also include neighborhood parks, canyons, etc. The area covered in a neighborhood with apartment complexes can range from a single complex to several complexes.

Initial duties of the Block Captain or Co-Captains might include:
  • Compile a membership list
  • Develop an area map with home addresses
  • Collect money for Neighborhood Watch signs, and post and maintain the signs

Community Watch signs and sign hardware approved by the SCSO can be obtained from National Neighborhood Watch Institute However, Community Watch groups are free to buy signs from any company and do not need SCSO authorization to do so. The signs can be installed with permission on private property or utility poles, with perforated metal tape on County street light poles, or at least 7 feet above the grade level on County street signs. They cannot be installed on any traffic control sign or County tree. After installation the exposed bolt threads should be crimped to prevent theft of the sign.

Continuing duties of the Block Captain or Co-CaptainsAfter the group is formed their duties will depend on their organizational skills and interests, and the nature and objectives of the group. The following are some possibilities:

  • Recruit new members
  • Maintain a membership list and area map with home addresses
  • Keep members informed about area crime and disorder
  • Try to see group members frequently
  • Establish and maintain a phone tree with home and work numbers that group members can use to contact residents in an emergency
  • Develop an area activity profile to help members recognize unusual or suspicious activities in the area. This could include vehicle descriptions, work hours, school hours for children, and scheduled services, e.g., gardening
  • Act as a spokesperson for the group
  • Serve as liaison with the SCSO
  • Plan, announce, and facilitate meetings
  • Organize crime prevention activities, e.g., watching homes when residents are away

Subsequent Meetings and Activities. Meetings of the whole group should be held at least once a year. They can be held more often if there is information to be distributed and discussed, a problem to address, or a special event to be planned and held. The key to keeping a Community Watch group active is maintaining interest over time and communicating with members.

 
Contact the Community Relations Officer
Use this form to contact the Smith County Sheriff's Office Community Relations Officer. Please include your name and other contact information and a brief description of the type of information or activities you are interested in.
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Smith County Texas
100 N. Broadway Tyler, Texas
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phone 1.903.590.2600 | email comments@smith-county.com