In New York City in the mid-1960s, hundreds of residents listened but did not respond to a woman’s prolonged screams for help. The woman was murdered, but a national re-understanding of the value of neighborhood-based security was born.
Block Watch in Seattle was launched in 1974. In Eastlake, we have an annual Night Out Block Watch party for the 2600 block of Franklin. The Floating Homes maintains an e-mail system for reporting crimes. The Eastlake Community Council occasionally has well-attended “Crime” public meetings. And after a particularly horrendous local violent crime or aggressive wave of property crime, there are always calls for more Block Watches.
I want to try a new approach. The original concept of Block Watch was a grassroots growth of neighborly interaction to suppress crime. Eastlake Ave. blog seems the ideal location to assemble ideas from which to build a sustainable anti-crime framework.
Over the next few weeks, I’ll try to write to one topic within the following themes:
Which Crimes? Which crimes do we remove – such as graffiti, litter? Which do we report and archive – such as car prowls? Do we encourage a separate organization for the neighborhood’s commercial interests who don’t care about car prowls on Fairview but do care about shoplifting?
Strengths and Weaknesses. We have the advantages of numbers and home turf. The criminals have the advantages timing and desperation. How can we exploit their weaknesses? How can we protect our weaknesses?
Sustainability. How do we create a perpetually sustainable information dissemination structure? How do we prevent ourselves from expanding into encroachment?
How Political? Do we work to ban high-octane beer from our convenience stores? Do we organize courtroom observers to monitor local cases to their most appropriate conclusion? Do we train teams to supervise court-ordered clean-up crews under the freeway? Do we endorse a City Council candidate who promises to restore funding for our police liaison?
Patrols and Incident Response. What are the pros and cons about bike patrols? Litter Patrols? Graffiti patrols? Sidewalk patrols? Broken windshield glass at 3:00 AM inspected with a flashlight, orange vest and cell phone isn’t my wife’s ideal Saturday night.
Electronics. Phone trees to voice mail, e-mail blasts, Twitter, Face book, surveillance cameras, cell phones. Phones were at the end of the hallway when Kitty Genovese was murdered in 1964. So how do we use our new electonic tools effectively and efficiently?
Public Presence. We likely need a public name. But we don’t need neighbors asking us to go clean up syringes on the playground. And we don’t want graffiti punks to target our leadership. What should be our public presence, both as projected and as a receptive community institution?
The Police. The East Precinct sacrificed their Block Watch liaison to budget cuts. The West Precinct is busy organizing Belltown to defend itself against regular gunfire and drug dealing. Eastlake was split at Lynn Street last year between the East and West Precincts. The Floating Homes are split between Harbor Patrol, East, West and North Precincts. How much help can we expect – and do we want — from the Seattle Police Department?
Others hopefully will contribute ideas, directions and topics as they see fit.