David B. Shoar
St. Johns County Sheriff
Special to Historic City News
During these times, residential and vehicle burglaries continue to be prevalent, not only in St. Johns County, but throughout the country. Many thieves gain entry simply by opening unlocked doors and windows. I urge each of you to remember to lock your doors and windows in an effort to stop these burglaries.
Another type burglary is also on the rise and that is the Smash & Grab burglary. It is not only important to lock your doors, but keep valuables out of sight. A common occurrence is when a woman makes a quick stop to a daycare facility, store, health club or even a park and leaves their purse inside the locked vehicle. Crooks surveil these facilities out and if they see a woman get out of the vehicle without their purse they act quickly to smash the window and remove the purse. It is just as important to keep valuables out of sight as it is to keep the doors locked.
Another tool in combating neighborhood crime is through the Neighborhood Watch Program offered here at the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office. By banding together with law enforcement, neighborhoods are more apt to prevent crime before it occurs. This community-based program has been proven to deter crime. The National Neighborhood Watch Program, which began in 1972 through the National Sheriffs’ Association, unites law enforcement, local organizations and citizens in a community-wide effort to reduce residential crime. Thousands of these programs have been developed throughout the country and many thrive here in St. Johns County.
The concept for the program is simple: Neighbors looking out for neighbors. Any community resident can take part, young and old, single and married, renter and home owner. Just a few concerned residents, a community organization or the Sheriff’s Office can spearhead the effort to organize a Neighborhood Watch. Members learn how to make their homes more secure, watch out for each other and the neighborhood, and, most importantly, REPORT activities that raise their suspicions to the Sheriff’s Office. You can form a Neighborhood Watch group around any geographical unit such as, a block, apartment building, park, business area, housing complex, office or marina. Watch groups are NOT vigilantes. They are extra eyes and ears for reporting crimes and helping neighbors. The program also builds pride and serves as a springboard for efforts that address other community concerns, such as recreation for youth, child care, and affordable housing.
If you are interested in forming a Neighborhood Watch in your area, and one does not exist, form a small planning committee. Set a tentative date and location for an initial neighborhood meeting. Then contact the Sheriff’s Office and request that a Crime Prevention Deputy come to your meeting to discuss your specific community’s problems and needs. Contact as many of your neighbors as possible and ask if they would be willing to meet to organize a Neighborhood Watch group in your area.
Once your program is beginning to get under way, there are several concrete steps you should take to make the organization successful. Contact the Sheriff’s Office for help in training members in home security and reporting skills as well as for information on local crime patterns. Select a coordinator and block captain who will be responsible for organizing meetings and relaying information to members. Recruit new members and notify any new residents moving into the area. Make special efforts to involve our seniors, working parents, and young people into the program.
Some things to look and listen out for: Screaming or shouting for help; someone looking into windows of homes or parked cars. Unusual noises. Property being taken out of houses or building where no one is at home, or the business is closed. Cars, vans or trucks moving slowly with no lights or with no apparent destination. Anyone being forced into a vehicle. A stranger running through private yards or alleyways. A stranger sitting in a car or stopping to talk to a child. Abandoned cars. Most importantly try to obtain a tag number and direction of travel of a suspect and pass that information to the Sheriff’s Office as soon as possible. Remember, don’t investigate these problems yourself. Report these and any other suspicious incidents to the Sheriff’s Office as they are happening.
Once you get started in organizing a Neighborhood Watch, there is virtually no limit to the innovative ways to combat crime and increase involvement of your community. Your neighborhood will not only become safer and more secure, but will have the added benefit of neighbors brought closer together, with opportunities to rekindle the sense of community that many areas of the country have lost over the years.
For additional information on the Neighborhood Watch program or any of the other Crime Prevention programs, please contact Corporal Diana Bryant at 904-209-1551. There is much more information available to our residents on our many programs offered at your Sheriff’s Office from our website at www.sjso.org. For those of you on Social Media, be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter and please download the SJSO mobile application to connect with your Sheriff’s Office.
David B. Shoar is a candidate for re-election as Sheriff of St Johns County. He has approved this message and paid for it to be published. He invites Historic City News readers to contact him anytime by e-mail at email@example.com.