Key to Neighborhood Safety: Know Your Neighbors

By Rachel Martin

March 28, 2012 Updated Mar 28, 2012 at 9:35 PM EST

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Indiana’s NewsCenter) – President of a local neighborhood association says “knowing your neighbors” is key to neighborhood safety.

Monday marked the one month anniversary of Sanford, Fla. teen Trayvon Martin’s death. He was shot and killed by 28-year-old George Zimmerman, a volunteer neighborhood watchman.

Many neighborhoods in Fort Wayne are security patrolled or have a neighborhood watch. Wildwood Park is a neighborhood with 150 houses on Fort Wayne’s west side. Lenny Duff, the neighborhood President, says there's no formal neighborhood watch program. Duff says his neighborhood is safe because everyone simply talks to each other. “It sounds simplistic, but it truly is,” said Duff.

In addition to open communication, Wildwood Park neighborhood has a website, Facebook page and monthly newsletter with the latest trends, crime stats, happenings and emergency contacts. Duff says they also have a Neighborhood Liaison Officer (NLO) who patrols, sends alerts and news releases, and attends monthly meetings.

“Our NLO or those that are in his group will cruise through periodically, especially during the evening hours, just to make sure that everything is ok. It’s beneficial so if we have strange people wandering through the neighborhood that don’t belong here, maybe they won’t remain in the neighborhood,” said Duff.

Duff says their NLO also provides crime statistics from FWPD that lets them know what kind of crimes happen in their area.

“Was it just a pull-over, was it speeding, was it a break-in entry, was it a burglary? That helps us to say, ‘are we maintaining at least a consistent level or declining level of crime statistics in our area?’”

In the Martin case, both Zimmerman and the Florida Police did not know Martin lived in the community when he visited his father. Duff says that why it's important to know your neighbors.

“All of our neighbors pretty much know each other. I mean, a successful neighborhood watch is where neighbors are taking care of neighbors, and they way to do that is to know who your neighbors are,” said Duff.

Duff says there are many events, such as an annual picnic and dinner, where neighbors get together and talk about what's important in their community. He says safety is always a top concern.

“We watch each other. I watch my neighbor’s house. And if we continue to do that effectively I think we can continue to have the success in Wildwood Park that we’ve had for years and that is very low crime statistics.”

But Duff says their safety watch will only continue to be effective as long as everyone gets involved and reads the newsletter.

“The only thing you can do is continue to keep that dialogue open. Not everybody may read the newsletter, though it’s a great way to get information, if they’re not reading it those neighbors will be somewhat limited in scope as to what we would like to do collectively as a neighborhood to protect our properties.”

Currently, it seems the biggest issue surrounding the Martin case is the fact that Zimmerman has not been arrested. Reports say Zimmerman claims he killed Martin in self-defense. Zimmerman was carrying a gun which, according to ABC News, is a violation of the major principles of the Neighborhood Watch manual. It says, “…it should be emphasized to members that they do not possess police powers, and they shall not carry weapons or pursue vehicles.” Martin was unarmed carrying only a bag of Skittles and an iced tea. But, in Florida there is the "Stand Your Ground" law, which allows citizens to use deadly force if they feel their life is in danger. Florida police say currently there is no evidence that proves otherwise.




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