03 October, 2013

Starting A Neighborhood Watch In A Rumor-Rich, Confusing Environment

I understand why there's confusion about Neighborhood Watch here in St. Albans. 

Some wards have Neighborhood Watch while others don't. See the October issue of St. Albans Monthly for an overview of which wards have active Watch programs and how to contact the leader.

The mayor only acknowledges Neighborhood Watch when he wants a pre-fab venue and crowd for one of his media events. 

And we have at least three different kinds of Neighborhood Watch meetings. First, there are the regularly scheduled ward meetings - usually once each month. Second, we have occasional citywide Neighborhood Watch meetings where people from all the active Neighborhood Watch groups meet.

And now, there's a third kind of meeting that the news media and the news consuming public are just hearing about. We're calling it a "Neighborhood Watch Advisory Board". It was my idea. I practically insisted that we do it. I had always believed that if St. Albans is really serious about deploying Neighborhood Watch throughout the city, we would have a way to define and measure the success of a group and to help struggling groups understand what they have to do to succeed. 

The October 2 Kanawha Valley Neighbors has a news piece about this newly created board.

I also believed that if we didn't create a "support group" to help the social entrepreneurs who step up and offer to start neighborhood watch groups, we would continue to lose good people to fatigue, frustration, discouragement and even to infighting between factions. 

We've created that group. We've agreed to meet the 3rd Friday of each month. We're comprised of city council members, police and social/civic entrepreneurs who have become leaders in the effort to build effective Neighborhood Watch programs in their wards. 

No, I will not publish the names of the civilians. You see, here in St. Albans, people who spend their own time and money to do something good will get criticized and slandered and maligned for doing so. Far be it from me to hasten the day when people who are just trying to make their neighbors safer start being vilified by the very neighbors they're helping. 

So when a TV news anchor makes factual mistakes about one of our meetings and seems totally confused by the copy he or she is reading from the teleprompter, I understand. 

I also know that, here in my town, people make up their own news. We prefer rumors to factual news. St. Albans provides a rich environment for confusion so I use every free means at my disposal to provide accurate information about our Neighborhood Watch efforts. 

Just one more thing: if your ward doesn't have a Neighborhood Watch, call me and I'll help you start one. You don't need your city council person's permission. He can't stop you. Call me. 304-550-6710. 

And keep reading my blog. Follow me on Twitter :: @HigginbothamAt.

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