PRYOR, OK —
“I have no problem saying I want to go back to the nosy neighbors of the 50s and 60s,” said reserve deputy Joe Garrett of the Mayes County Sheriff’s Office.
Garrett recalls a community where neighbors know who is on vacation, whose house is empty during the day and who drives which vehicle.
Garrett plays an active role in the Mayes County Neighborhood Watch Program.
“Neighborhood Watch is one of the oldest and best-known crime prevention programs in North America, focusing on residential areas and involving local citizens,” according to the brochure provided at the Mayes County Sheriff’s Office.
The purpose of the Neighborhood Watch is to “increase awareness, identifying and reporting suspicious activities and properly marking and recording identification of personal property.”
“It does not require any heroic efforts or expensive equipment,” Garrett said. “By increasing communication between citizens and local law enforcement, the citizen becomes the extra eyes and ears needed to fight drugs and crime in our communities.”
Watches can be made up of just a few houses, a city block or an entire community. Mayes County Neighborhood Watch offers education training to more than 15,000 households and businesses.
Garrett said one of the most successful programs is a community-wide watch in Mazie.
“We’ve made several felony arrests in Mazie. They are sort of a model program,” said Garrett.
“We’re asking for help from communities. Essentially, we help them set up their program and they select a Neighborhood Watch Captain,” said Garrett, pointing out the best captains are individuals who are home during the day and able to keep an eye on homes while their neighbors are at work.
“We educate the groups on what sort of things to look for, what things to write down. The watcher gives the information, like license plate numbers or suspicious activity to their captain who calls it in to the sheriff’s office,” said Garrett.
Garrett said often the license plate numbers are run and come back belonging to a person known to be involved in drug activity.
“We investigate the leads that are turned in to us. A little education and organization makes a world of difference in the quality of information being turned in to us,” said Garrett. “The issues are primarily drug and theft.”
Garrett said he has spoken with jail inmates who admit they look for the posted Neighborhood Watch Program signs.
“They told me they avoid the neighborhoods with these signs because they know there are people watching that won’t hesitate to call law enforcement,” Garrett said.
Information provided in the sheriff’s office outlines the steps to starting a neighborhood watch.
First, identify if there is enough interest to start a watch group and determine the watch area. Next, talk to local law enforcement and set meeting times. Send out invitations to the meeting along with information about the program. Information provided by the sheriff’s office suggests electing block captains and co-captains but to remember participation is voluntary.
“I attend meetings and give neighborhoods all the education I can. Mayes County Sheriff’s Office is behind this program 100 percent. The office, and Sheriff Mike Reed, are very supportive of the efforts,” said Garrett. “Being able to identify drug activity and reporting it to your local law enforcement is key to decreasing crime in your area.”