Each year, Marana gets bigger and bigger in both size and population. With steady growth over the past few decades, it’s safe to say the Marana Police Department’s officers can’t be everywhere at all times.
However, MPD has a neighborhood watch program that has been in place for years. The program, sponsored by the National Sheriffs’ Association, enlists volunteers, often regular citizens, who serve as the eyes and ears of their neighborhoods and keep regular contact with the police.
David Danielson, Marana’s Community Resource Officer, works with a neighborhood watch support team to get these programs out in the town’s neighborhoods, share information and provide assistance wherever needed.
“It’s all about neighbors helping neighbors,” said Mike Newman, one of the support team volunteers. “It’s almost as if it’s a throwback to a time when neighbors really were close. It sort of aims to recreate a time when neighbors were close and helped each other out.”
Darrel Gleddie, another volunteer, got involved with neighborhood watch about 10 years ago after moving to Marana for retirement. He lives in the Highlands at Dove Mountain, which has one of the longest-running programs in town, and serves as their community coordinator.
There are 1,200 homes in the Highlands, which Gleddie said is broken down into seven areas. Each area has a coordinator, and those areas are broken down even further into blocks. Any given block will have between 10 and 20 homes and there is a block watch captain for each block. There are 97 blocks in the Highlands, and Gleddie said he’s only missing two block watch captains at the moment, so there is a great amount of community participation in the program.
The block watch captain is the main point of communication for residents. They are responsible for keeping an updated list or plot map of the names, addresses and phone numbers of the neighborhood watch members and contacting new neighbors when they move in to explain the program and its resources. If something happens in their immediate vicinity, the captain will send an alert to the members to make sure everyone is on the same page.
Over the years, Gleddie said the neighborhood watch program had its ups and downs, but it’s reaching a peak right now in terms of opportunities for involvement. They’re looking for more people to engage and set up their own programs. The goal is to have each neighborhood watch structured similarly to the Highlands.
“The neighborhood watch programs don’t have to be as large as Highlands,” Newman said. “It can be a block of 10 people. In fact, it’s important that the houses are contiguous so the people can look after each other’s property.”
A neighborhood watch program has an advantage over a police patrol because residents are more familiar with the surroundings. They know who lives on their block, what cars their neighbors drive and when their neighbors are away. However, it’s clear that this program does not promote vigilantism.
“The police department does not endorse stopping and questioning people or having patrols,” Newman said. “It’s all about observation and awareness. Observing your surroundings and being trained on how to report suspicious activities.”
Their program teaches residents how to accurately describe a suspect to the police and how to spot something out of the ordinary on a moment’s notice. It does not encourage them to be overly-suspicious of strangers, apprehend people or do the job of law enforcement.
The current neighborhood watch programs are located in the Golden Barrel, Highlands, Sunflower and Willow Ridge areas. The group is working to establish more programs in the San Lucas neighborhood, the Homestead subdivision in Gladden Farms and Rancho Marana.
Newman said it takes just one or two motivated people to get a neighborhood watch program started. Residents must solicit the support of their neighbors and be willing to sit down and share their information with each other such as the type of cars they own, the number of children in their household and when they go on vacation.
The residents must figure out a date, time and frequency for their neighborhood watch meetings. MPD requires at least one meeting per year. At that point, the group can contact Danielson to officially set up their program.
Police officers often attend the neighborhood meetings to give trainings on a variety of topics like CPR, fire prevention, home security, elder abuse and more. Officers will even look at a neighborhood’s crime statistics and give an analysis to the residents, explaining how to prevent the most common problems their community faces.
It’s all about being proactive instead of reactive, Danielson said. By establishing a system of good communication, the entire community benefits and everyone can have a better peace of mind.
“We don’t want to just put [information] through the media, we want to go face to face and talk to the neighbors out there,” he said.
The effectiveness of neighborhood watch programs is substantial on a national level. An analysis by the U.S. Department of Justice found that programs in 18 different studies nationwide contributed to a relative 16 percent decrease in crime when compared to neighborhoods without a program. However, the analysis acknowledges that results will vary by specific characteristics of each program.
When a neighborhood in Gladden Farms experienced a series of car break-ins, Danielson said the residents naturally became concerned about the safety of their property. The program was able to provide a sense of security for them.
“We established neighborhood watch in that area to give them a venue where they could talk and share information to kind of calm down those waters so that people weren’t freaking out when they saw things,” he said. “They knew exactly what was going on, they knew the facts.”
Volunteers are eager to include more residents and help them get their own programs started. For more information, call David Danielson at 382-2051 or email email@example.com.