Watch Groups Insist Efforts Worthwhile
COLUMBIA - A leader of Columbia's Neighborhood Watch programs said Wednesday the group is successful, despite some recent vandalism in participating neighborhoods. Those vandals tore down signs and tossed benches into a road in the Hamlet, Quail Creek, and Stone Ridge Estates neighborhoods in southwest Columbia last weekend. These neighborhoods post signs that read "WARNING: NEIGHBORHOOD WATCH."
Susan Clark, vice president of the board of Columbia's Neighborhood Watch said the program involves neighborhood participation in keeping the community safe. Residents in a neighborhood watch program commit to paying attention to anything out of the ordinary and reporting to police.
"We're not asking people to patrol the neighborhood or be vigilantes. We're just asking them to pay attention," Clark said.
Some community members said they think the neighborhood watch signs mean police constantly patrol the neighborhood. Columbia police officer Tim Thomason said the only responsibility police have to the neighborhood watch program is to respond to calls and concerns. Clark mentioned police officers also give pointers to residents to avoid break-ins.
Neighborhood Watch hosts programs throughout the year to train property owners, renters, and anyone in the community on how to keep an eye out for their neighborhoods. Fox Run developer Jay Wright took advantage of the neighborhood watch program roughly six years ago. Vandalism incidents occurred frequently until his neighborhood watch program took off.
"We've never had major problems, but I think that's cause we have good people who live out here," Wright said. He credited his tenants' watchful eyes with keeping his development safe.
Wright said his development avoids Columbia crime, but that vandalism is hard to avoid.
"Especially in the summertime, we sometimes worry about kids coming through here. But it's not a huge issue," Wright said.
Clark said vandalism, especially late at night, is hard to control and hard to monitor as a neighborhood watch.
"Vandalism is just convenient, a crime of opportunity," Clark said.