‘Watching’ out for crime

By Kim Steele

Bartlett Express Editor


Bartlett Police Lt. Todd Halford is eager to let people know about the benefits of Neighborhood Watch in the city.

“Neighborhood Watch is an amazing program, and it works, without a doubt,” said Halford, the department’s public affairs and education officer.  “We are really pushing hard to get the word out about it to the areas that have never had a Neighborhood Watch or whose group has gone dormant.”

Halford said Bartlett, with its 54,000 citizens and 32.3 square miles of land, is very safe, considering how big it is now. But he doesn’t want its residents to get complacent, especially since the police can’t be everywhere and need the public to serve as their eyes and ears.

Bartlett currently has 73 Neighborhood Watch groups, said Halford, but that barely puts a dent in how many there could be.  Meetings range from every three weeks to once a year, depending on the interest of each group’s members.

Halford said the push began in January, after he took over as public affairs and education officer. Halford said he encourages groups to share information through Nextdoor, a social media group designed for Neighborhood Watches that boasts more than 10,000 neighborhoods in 50 states.

“It’s all about communication,” said Halford, noting about a dozen neighborhoods have joined the chat board. “This isn’t “Leave it to Beaver” times. Most people don’t know their neighbors’ names. We’re living in an electronic age, and this is a way of leaning over a neighbor’s fence and talking to each other without physically doing so.”

Halford said the service is free and is not monitored by the police department. He said that if the website can’t verify that people live in the neighborhood they’re trying to find out about online, they won’t be allowed to access it. Topics include abandoned or foreclosed homes, lost dogs, criminal activity and other neighborhood issues.

All upcoming Neighborhood Watch meetings are listed at www.facebook.com/pages/BARTLETT-POLICE-DEPARTMENT/225015130231 and can be accessed by the public. Halford said it isn’t difficult to start a Neighborhood Watch, and he is happy to provide information and attend any meeting.

The first thing Halford asks is for interested new participants meet with him so he can find out their goals, what they want to call their Neighborhood Watch and how involved they would like to become in it. Halford said he provides door hangers for meetings and has a variety of brochures and talks available.

Halford said his favorite Neighborhood Watch captain is Paul Foree of the Surrey Woods neighborhood. Halford said Foree is the most active street captain he has ever met, often visiting police headquarters and regularly attending Bartlett Board of Mayor and Aldermen meetings.

“He wants to be involved in everything and he does a great job,” said Halford. “He makes sure his neighbors have the information they need and keeps them involved.”

Foree said he has been a captain for about 10 years and has found that most of his neighbors watch out for each other and will report problems or suspicious activities to the proper authorities. Foree said his group has eight street captains.

“Neighborhood Watch is definitely important to us,” said Foree. “I think it helps reduce crime here. We’ve got Neighborhood Watch signs out, and we know when our neighbors are going on vacation so we can keep an eye on their houses. And I try to stay involved with what’s going on.”

Halford said he believes the Neighborhood Watch program in Bartlett is making a difference. Halford said many of the department’s anonymous tips come from the Neighborhood Watch groups.

“It’s a real deterrent when people hoping to commit a crime see Neighborhood Watch signs and people writing down their license numbers,” said Halford. “These residents are all just concerned citizens who want to make Bartlett an amazing place to live. They take pride in keeping the crime rate down and making sure their neighborhood looks good.”