Beyond the primary goal of crime prevention and general safety, the presence of a Neighborhood Crime Watch program in a particular area serves as a wonderful indication of that community working to improve itself and neighbors working together.
As block leader of Palmetto Bay's fourth active Neighborhood Crime Watch, I continue to be surprised by the power of simply getting fellow neighbors together. Ideas flow, community leaders are eager to participate and support us and the the police department is always in attendance for our meetings.
Our latest meeting took place last night (February 18). It was a special meeting because we were able to expand our geographic "neighborhood" beyond SW 74th Place to include households from SW 74th Avenue and SW 148th Street (map). During our meeting, many agreed this was a logical and manageably-sized neighborhood with common interests and goals within our community.
Some highlights from the police department report last night:
- It was recently ratified that the Palmetto Bay police force will continue operate as its own entity for the next five years (retroactively beginning July 2009)
- There are approximately 40 officers assigned to patrol Palmetto Bay, FL
- Crime in Palmetto Bay was down 9% in 2009 (over the previous year)
- There is a 45-day trend in increased vehicle burglary, including 16 this past weekend alone
The police stressed to us once again that most vehicle burglary can be prevented by not leaving valuables in plain sight and locking your doors. They said most of the burglary are kids and adults looking for crime of opportunity and easy "hits".
Prompted by a question from our group, the police also reminded us about the ability for any resident to put a WATCH ORDER on their home or business while they are away. By dialing 305-259-1270 and providing the police with the days you are going away, you cell phone number and any pertinent info about who may access your property while you are away, the police will step up patrol in the area and, should anything happen, they can contact you directly. It's a wonderful program that many people don't even know about. They stressed to take advantage of it.
Another topic discussed was the pass-through traffic we see during rush hours, often at high rates of speed. Unfortunately, our streets are cut-through streets that help commuters skip the light at 152nd and Old Cutler. The police explained that they have around 60 such areas of note and are looking into purchasing special flahing light radar signs that can be placed in the worst areas. They also said they would do their best to increase patrol in the area.
Palmetto Bay police officer Mike Judge recently finished being certified in home security assessment. Residents can schedule a personal property review by calling 305-259-1270. The report will show areas where the homeowner can harden their property to improve security.
Finally, the police also reminded us to take advantage of the Miami-Dade County 311 information system. During the hours of Mon-Fri 6a-10p and Sat 8a-5p, dialing 311 puts you in touch with a live operator who can tell you about all the government services available to you. This includes animal control, a topic that many take to heart when they see a stray in their neighborhood.
Alina Lopez, Coordinator for Citizen's Crime Watch (pictured above, center) spoke about the 2010 U.S. Census and gave us very important advice. During February and March, every household will be sent a survey containing 10 questions. It is anonymous and she highly recommends filling it out and sending it back, not only as a "good citizen thing" but also for security reasons.
"If you don't return the mail survey, the government will send someone to your door to request the information. Unfortunately, it is possible to have people with criminal intent to impersonate census workers. Therefore, if you have completed the survey by mail, there is no reason to open your door to anyone saying they are from the census, whether real or an imposter," said Lopez. Good advice!
Also regarding the 2010 U.S. Census, your participation helps the government steer programs and federal dollars to areas in need. The more your community participates, the more federal benefit you'll likely receive.
I highly encourage anyone to start or participate in a Neighborhood Crime Watch. You learn how to be safe and you get to know people in the area. What better way to enjoy and enrich your home. If you want to talk to me about my experience, please email or call me.