Fun With The Block Watch

 I was a block-watch coordinator in Bremerton, Washington, for fifteen years. This is why I refuse to coordinate, oversea, organize or browbeat a block-watch ever again. But I’m certainly willing to share tips and hints if anyone wants to set one up.

First of all, let the local police know you’re forming a blockwatch. You’ll need their cooperation. If you want to get rid of the coke house or make the users stop attempting to run the kids off the sidewalks, here are a few suggestions:

  1. Set up a block-watch contact with the police. Get their phone numbers and fancy brochures.

  2. Have an initial block-watch meeting, and make sure you have some kind of cop there. Most towns have a block-watch contact. Make sure the kids attend.

  3. Don’t haul the neighbors in every single week for a block-watch meeting. Have a complete informational meeting the first month, and then go underground until actual problems surface. It’s going to be easier to have people over to your house for cookies and action plans (and for your stupid cat to frighten with a dead baby robin) if there’s an actual problem going on in the neighborhood.

  4. Remind the neighbors that they’re actually property owners and no, nobody has the right, under any constitution, to scare, bully or generally push them around.

  5. Drive-by shootings are always aimed at the people actually involved in the trafficking. The clowns in the low-riders are aiming for each other, not the locals. People on drugs don’t normally shoot straight. Remind block watch members that they have a bigger arsenal than the drug dimwits – the police. Don’t let the flip-flopped idiot with the yard fixation start threatening to use his own gun; remember the block-watch slang for children: “Bullet magnet.”

  6. If you’re in contact with the cops to set up surveillance for on-going criminal activity, it’s simply going to take a long time for them to build a case. If the block watch is not willing to take film of activities through the curtains at night, or keep a llicense-plate list of vehicles pulling up for five-minute stops, then don’t bother the cops about closing down the drug house.

  7. If the gang-bangers try to move in and tag the garages, get out there and get those scribbles painted off. Today. Everybody can swear all they like, but paint out the marks NOW. Then wait for the next day when the bangers bring their friends by to brag about their new territory, and find out that the actual property-owning gang has un-done all their markings. Try not to laugh as the taggers nearly burst into tears. Pointing and laughing, however, is just bad manners.

  8. If an obvious drug stop occurs repeatedly – especially in front of your own house – try this old Detroit trick: paint a nice neat red-on-white sign that proclaims, “Drug Parking – 15 minute limit.” The one thing the drop-off drivers don’t want is attention. The only problem this will cause is if you try to take it down later and your neighbors complain because they thought it was funny.

  9. If the drop-off moves to the next house, have a party on his car. This is highly entertaining to the neighborhood, and extremely frustrating for the dealer. It’s awfully hard to bring in customers if the blockwatch is sitting around the guy’s car drinking margaritas and holding up numbered performance cards.

  10. If one of the neighborhood kids starts lighting things to watch them burn, contact the fire department. Have a special meeting for Junior Firefighters. Re-direct the little arsonist’s desire for attention: make him the Chief.

  11. The kids will get in on the blockwatch, whether you want them to or not. Drill it into their little pea brains that they are NOT to confront adults. If they see anything, do a slow walk-and-whistle around the block to the blockwatch leader’s house. Make sure they understand how much larger an adult is than any child – and that they are very seldom reluctant to hurt children they think is getting between them and their fun. People doing dumb things often can’t recognize other people’s children as human beings. If they could, they wouldn’t be doing the dumb things in the first place.

  12. It is very very difficult, but at least try to make it clear to people that they can’t witness something and run to you to report it. You are NOT a member of the police. You are not a legal witness. People often have warrants upon them, and are reluctant to act as witnesses. At least set up a network where they can have someone else call in the problem – preferably a relative not wanted by the sheriff, if they can find one.

You’ll have to re-think your direction for any blockwatch, and make it fit your own situation. Use a sense of humor and don’t be afraid. If you’re afraid, they’re going to take over the neighborhood anyway, so you might as well get in ahead of them.

Have fun, and hook up for the National Block-watch parties. And vote in a new blockwatch coordinator at least once a year.

Before the first one loses her mind.

Donna Barr has written a lot of books. Her home page is http://www.stinz.com

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