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Neighborhood Watch: Why, and How-to

ELIZABETH USSHER GROFF - Neighbor Watch signs are available from the city for blocks that have set up a Neighborhood Watch group. Older signs were yellow; the new signs are blue.At least once a week or more, we hear via the online social media or through the old-fashioned neighborhood grapevine, that one or more Inner Southeast Portland neighborhoods have had a theft from a garage, a yard, or a home.

We are told that it would be helpful to set up a Neighborhood Watch Group. But if neighbors already keep in touch with each other, the question is sometimes asked – why would a Neighborhood Watch be necessary?

The answer is that no matter how close you are with your neighbors, you can still always benefit from setting up an official watch group.

An initial block meeting can answer certain questions:


  • What is needed to know to make my home more secure?


  • How can I obtain neighborhood watch signs for our neighborhood? (Metal signs are $24. The newer ones, in the last three years, are blue. "Window clings" are available for doors and windows.)


  • How can I learn to create and use tools like a block map or telephone tree?


  • Can we learn disaster and emergency preparedness tips, in addition to crime prevention information?

    If your block hasn't yet created a neighborhood watch, now is the time to do it. Here is how:

    1.) Call Mark Wells, citywide crime prevention coordinator, at 503/823-2781 (at the Portland Office of Neighborhood Involvement), and set a training date for him to meet with you and interested neighbors.

    2.) Invite the people on your street and your backyard neighbors and, if it's appropriate, new neighbors. Meeting places are usually in someone's home. If you live in an apartment, invite everyone in your building.

    3.) Designate one or two people in the group to be block organizers.

    4.) Develop a contact sheet and neighborhood map.

    5.) Learn about code and traffic enforcement, and when and how to call 9-1-1. Learn detailed crime analysis for that street, if relevant in your case.

    6.) Set a date for fun activities, such as block parties or group yard sales.

    Wells says, "Setting up an official Neighborhood Watch not only informs neighbors about crime prevention, but also helps neighbors build stronger ties with each other, support each other, and have enjoyable social gatherings."

    He adds, "A longer-term goal is for Neighborhood Watch groups to collaborate with the Portland Bureau of Emergency Management (PBEM), and Neighborhood Emergency Teams (NETs), to learn more about disaster preparedness, in addition to crime prevention."

    More questions can be answered, and assistance given, by Mark Wells. Again, you can reach him at 503/823-2781 -- or you can e-mail him at: HYPERLINK "mailto:mark.wells@portlandoregon.gov" mark.wells@portlandoregon.gov.