When people experience property crimes or see it happen in their neighborhoods, they are likely to call the police.
Neighborhood watch groups encourage this, and they take it one step further: They collaborate with the police and one another to try to prevent crime before it happens.
The Brentwood Police Department’s neighborhood watch program has been in place for over 20 years, and Community Service Officer Michele Keady has coordinated it for most of her career.
“It’s been an opportunity to meet our residents,” Keady said, “to inform them and educate them on crime trends, as well as ways to protect themselves and their property.”
There are several neighborhood watch groups in Brentwood as they pertain to individual communities. If a watch group is not in place in someone’s community, they can contact Keady to start one and determine when to host meetings. Then, she creates flyers for residents to distribute throughout their neighborhoods. When Keady meets with the group, she shows up with her materials and goes over the appropriate information.
When someone initially contacts Keady, she said it’s usually for one of two reasons: someone is new to a neighborhood and wants to be proactive, or an established resident has noticed some changes.
“We talk about what they’re observing and make sure the police department is aware,” she said. “Then we look at, geographically, where are they at? When you step out on your front porch and you look left to right, what neighbors do you see? How many homes? One direction and then the other — that’s your target area.”
When residents know their neighborhood and neighbors, Keady said, they become familiar with what is normal and what is not, and then they can take appropriate actions when things don’t feel right.
With Brentwood being a commuter community where many residents are gone for extended hours, Keady understands people might not want to bother their neighbors, especially if they’re new to a neighborhood. But she thinks a neighborhood watch group can be a good way to get to know them.
“You’re taking care of your neighborhood, looking out for your family, looking after your neighbors,” she said. “Everyone’s there for a very positive reason. So having a neighborhood watch meeting is a great icebreaker, especially for the new residents that may be moving into an established neighborhood. But even for a brand new neighborhood, it’s a great way to start off on a great note.”
Keady said a key educational component to the neighborhood watch partnership is how to be a hard target. Securing your homes, your vehicle, removing items from plain sight, locking side gates and fences, and using motion detector lighting and video surveillance are all practices that can help deter crime.
The Brentwood Police Department has a video surveillance partnership program in which people can register their residential cameras, and the department can plot map where those cameras are. If a crime or suspicious activity occurs in their area, they can reach out to ask residents to potentially assist in the investigation by checking their cameras. Keady said the police department does not ask for access, and participation is voluntary.
“We do encourage the use of surveillance cameras and alarm systems; it only helps with the investigative process,” Keady said.
She emphasizes that if residents invest in a surveillance camera system, they should make sure it is high resolution, and that they know how to utilize it properly if a video needs to be extracted.
Keady said this community and law enforcement partnership is a vital component of the community, and she finds her work fulfilling.
“When I’m working with residents to maintain the quality of life for our community, that’s always a positive experience,” she said. “To work with individuals, especially when we’re doing that collaborative effort to address a concern, it makes you feel that you’ve contributed to the community in a positive way.”