A Fairview Heights resident decided to get involved in her neighborhood when the incidents of crime on her street began to increase over the summer months.
Sharon Sandheinrich contacted the Fairview Heights Police Department to find out more about what could be done to start a Neighborhood Watch on Frey and Countryside lanes. During the early part of summer, there were numerous break-ins and a stolen vehicle. By the end of summer, another car had been stolen.
"It's always been out there, but I don't think anybody had ever stepped forward to get it to go," she said of the Neighborhood Watch program. "I found an officer who was kind of close to the area, so I picked him, sent him an email and the next thing you know he's saying 'Yeah, let's do it.' I didn't really want to put a whole lot of time into it, but he told me that if we really wanted to get it going, he was going to need help from me."
Sandheinrich agreed to become the Neighborhood Watch captain for her street, a job that requires organizing meetings and keeping a list of the emergency contact information for residents who agree to be part of the program. The first Neighborhood Watch meeting was held in November. Sandheinrich created and printed bright orange fliers about the meeting. Sandheinrich and Neighborhood Watch co-captain Terry Dew walked the neighborhood distributing the flyers and talking to residents.
At meetings, different ways to discourage crime in the neighborhood is discussed and neighbors are kept updated on any recent crimes in the neighborhood. Residents have been encouraged to keep front porch lights on at night to prevent crime and trim bushes and trees that are close to homes to take away hiding places and shadows for criminals.
"We walked the whole neighborhood and handed them out," she said. "And we walked and we walked and we walked. We walked up driveways and talked to a lot of people. That's what people wanted, they wanted to talk."
So far, about 95 percent of the residents have agreed to participate in the program. A 50 percent participation level allows the neighborhood access to Neighborhood Watch signs that will be installed along the participating streets. Residents are also provided with Neighborhood Watch decals for their homes and a handbook with advice and guidelines about the program and crime prevention. Those who want to participate in the program share their emergency contact information with the police department and designated watch captains and co-captains. They also must want to help their neighbors, have an awareness of what is happening around them, be willing to become part of the prosecution process if necessary and not hesitate to call the police if they see suspicious activity in the neighborhood.
"The more people that are aware of this, the better off it is," Sandheinrich said. "The idea is to move it to each street so the whole area is a neighborhood watch. Police have found that when the signs go up, the criminals won't steal from that street, but they'll go to the next street over."
The next Neighborhood Watch meeting for Frey Lane and Countryside Lane is at 2 p.m. Feb. 10 at the Fairview Heights Police Department at 10027 Bunkum Road.
Another meeting for anyone else interested in a Neighborhood Watch program for their neighborhood is scheduled for 2 p.m. Feb. 24 at the police department.
"My goal is to see all of Fairview Heights become a Neighborhood Watch under the program with the police department. I love to have them all belong," Sandheinrich said. "When I was a kid, you knew everybody on your street. You knew who your neighbor was. It's not like that now. I don't know all of my neighbors and I think it would be great for everyone to know their neighbors, but, I can't do it all by myself, the police can't do it by themselves. We need people to get involved."
More information about the Fairview Heights Neighborhood Watch program can be found online at the Fairview Heights Police Department website at www.fhpd.org under the "Community" heading by clicking on the "Neighborhood Expert Officers" link.
Contact reporter Jennifer A. Schaaf at firstname.lastname@example.org or 618-239-2667.