Neighborhood Watch is a national program of mutual cooperation among neighbors and police aimed at reducing crime in the community. It also incorporates programs that educate the community in how they, themselves, can help prevent residential crimes in their neighborhoods. Residents are trained to call the police department and report any and all suspicious activity in the area that they observe.
Winter Park enjoys a very successful crime prevention program involving Neighborhood Watch. Neighborhood Watch actually began in Winter Park in 1981 and was one of the first cities to institute this program. There are numerous neighborhoods that are actively involved in the Neighborhood Watch program. The area that is defined for a Neighborhood Watch group is left to the individual neighborhoods. Some areas are only one block of one street while other areas encompass entire subdivisions or condominium/apartment complexes. When a group decides to form a Neighborhood Watch the neighbors contact the police department after at least 51% of all households have agreed to start a Watch area.
Residents/Participants in the various groups are not certified to conduct any law enforcement activities. They are directed to call the police and report any and all suspicious activity that they have observed or heard about in their specific area. Residents/Participants are advised to make the best observations possible ONLY from a safe distance and to NEVER follow, approach or confront a suspicious person. The Neighborhood Watch Chairperson/Captain works as a conduit for their respective areas by seeking, sharing and disseminating appropriate information and crime alerts issued by the Community Services Division Neighborhood Watch Officer. The NW Coordinator may also seek assistance from other city departments (i.e. Code Enforcement, Streets, Forestry) as needed to increase the degree of safety felt by residents within the community.
Each active area has at least one person classified as the Chairperson who is responsible for organizing meetings and relaying information to members, keeping up-to-date on new residents and making an effort to involve the elderly, working parents, and young people. In accordance with the program guidelines, each active group must meet at least annually with a representative of the police department to discuss guidance and offer help in training residents in home security, crime reporting skills and for information on local crime patterns trends throughout the city in general and the specific watch group area in particular. These meetings are held in informal settings usually at a neighbor’s home or sometimes a block party is held. All active Neighborhood Watch groups have a Neighborhood Watch sign(s) placed indicating to everyone they are entering an active watch area.
Annual meetings are held with each Neighborhood Watch Group to inform them of various updates that have occurred otherwise, emails are sent to the appointed group Chairperson/Captain or their designee throughout the year as needed. Free residential security surveys by trained Crime Prevention Officers are also offered to city residents. A database is utilized to track and keep records updated of current and inactive Watch areas. The Winter Park Police Department website is maintained and made available to all participating watch areas including the crime report mapping system which is updated every 24 hours and illustrates an accurate picture of recent tracked crimes occurring within the city.
The Community Services Division is always actively making efforts to revitalize all inactive groups and establish new groups throughout the city. Officer John Reynolds is responsible for coordinating residential crime prevention and expanding the Neighborhood Watch component of crime prevention. If you are interested in forming a Neighborhood Watch group, re-activating your old group or for more information regarding residential crime prevention, residential security surveys or any programs, you can contact Officer John Reynolds at 407-599-3507 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Some of the services provided by the Residential Crime Prevention section include:
- Residential Security Surveys
- Sexual Assault Prevention Programs
- Internet Safety Presentations
- Fraud & Scam Alerts
- Citizens Ride Along Programs
- S.A.F.E. Classes