Neighborhood Watch Programs Growing Strong In Wellington

Wellington’s Community Services Department recently released its third quarter meeting schedule for Neighborhood Watch groups.

Each quarter, Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office deputies meet with neighborhood advocates. Grant opportunities are available for block parties and a number of security measures.

One of the many benefits of belonging to a neighborhood watch group is taking part in creating a safer community. Other benefits include the social component of meeting neighbors, having a sense of control over the neighborhood and being active in the community, said John Jarvis, a Wellington code enforcement officer.

Specific results vary by community, PBSO spokeswoman Therese Barbera said, but through the proactive approach of “observe and report,” the program has seen a measurable decrease in incidents.

“The group has helped in reduction of calls for service within parks, to include trespassing, theft and fighting,” she said. “Calls for service have steadily [fallen] in the past three years.”

The numbers went from 65 calls in 2012 to 37 in 2013, and just 16 so far in 2014.

The Wellington community has embraced the assistance and knowledge that it absorbs from working with the PBSO.

“It’s not just the groups reaching out to the PBSO, it’s also the PBSO reaching out to the community to make it stronger,” Barbera said. “Relationships are built between the members of the watch groups and the PBSO. The joint effort of caring for the community allows for our growing relationship between the community, the village and the PBSO.”

With these stronger relationships, PBSO representatives have been able to educate Neighborhood Watch groups about crime in the area and how to be more aware and proactive. Crime prevention tips offered during meetings can be anything from holiday safety and fraud prevention tips to healthcare and general community service resources.

“When the PBSO recognizes a crime trend, such as car burglaries, we reach out to our groups and pass along crime prevention and suspect information,” Barbera said. “The group then passes it along to neighbors, friends and family, which results in additional ‘eyes and ears’ in our communities to observe and report suspicious activity.”

Learning what to look out for has been a great advantage for residents.

“They’re just in tune with what’s going on,” Jarvis said. “When the deputy comes to the meeting, he’ll talk to them about not just crimes in their neighborhood, but what’s going on in the big picture. That way, you’re a little bit more informed as to what’s going on.”

In order to begin a Neighborhood Watch group, there needs to be a willingness for participation among residents and the ability to meet regularly, with at least eight people in attendance.

Then, residents can call Wellington’s Community Services Department to schedule a meeting and work on organizing a Neighborhood Watch group. Each group designates a block captain, who runs the meeting with support from the PBSO and a village advocate.

In the last few years, Jarvis said, the program has been steadily growing and is now up to 12 groups. He stressed that Wellington is always looking to expand the number of communities that are involved. Meetings are flexible and can take place anywhere from village offices to neighborhood parks or even the block captain’s home.

One of the grant opportunities that the village offers exclusively to Neighborhood Watch members is called the defensive measures grant, Jarvis said, which allows a Neighborhood Watch participant up to $500, which is reimbursable, to protect their home in a defensive manner. That can be fencing, lighting or perhaps a camera system.

In order to be eligible to apply, a Neighborhood Watch member has to be considered an active member, which requires having been involved for at least the previous six months and having participated in at least the last two meetings.

The first two meetings of the quarter, Rye Terrace and Staghorn/Mulberry, have already occurred. Upcoming July meetings include Country Club Cove at 11 a.m. and Folkestone/Yarmouth at 4 p.m. on Saturday, July 19; and Pine Valley/Greenbriar Circle/Summerwood Circle at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, July 23.

August meetings begin with Stonegate at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 7; Greenview Shores at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 21; Chatsworth Village at 4 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 23; and Scribner at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 30.

September meetings include Wisteria at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 9 and Mayfair at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 10.

For more information about starting a Neighborhood Watch group, call Wellington’s Community Services Department at (561) 791-4796.