March 05, 2021 | Karen Durrie
The Watchers: Community Watch group is seeing real results as they seek to reduce crime
In the course of striving to make a safer community, polish its image and improve home values in the area, something amazing happened in Coventry Hills – a truly close-knit community was created.
The North Hills Community Association formally launched its Building Safer Communities program last April in an effort to reduce crime in Coventry Hills.
The need for a neighbourhood watch program became apparent when a number of informal groups and initiatives began to pop up in isolated pockets, with residents using social media to alert each other about suspicious activities and crimes in the area.
"The community itself was getting pretty tired of crime, so there was a need," said Tavis Settles, who sits on the Building Safer Communities committee.
The initiative has worked so well, the committee is in the process of rolling it out to other Northern Hills communities. It is also creating a template to offer other neighbourhoods, some of which have approached NHCA for help on addressing rising crime in their own areas.
The initiative is based on a community policing model, where residents and city police work in partnership to prevent crime and find solutions to issues affecting public safety.
Neighbours get to know one another through Facebook watchdog groups dedicated to discussing what's happening in the area. There is one umbrella group for the entire Coventry Hills community, as well as smaller groups based on each area suburb.
It's a fantastic program... It was grassroots with a bunch of guys and girls essentially fed up with the status quo and grew from there. We see great value in the (building safer communities) program.
"They post about suspicious characters, things that have been happening, people attempting to break into homes (and) car prowlings," said Settles. "We encourage members to call 911 if something is happening, and to make police reports for everything else. We've found that over time, it has brought crime down quite a lot."
According to the Canada Safety Council, the success of neighbourhood watch programs depends on cooperation between residents and the police.
Residents have gotten to know their community resource officer, Sgt. Steve Kelly, who Settles says, told the committee police applaud the program. That's because it helps police get information to make arrests, and to put the appropriate resources into place when they identify trends in what's being reported.
All this reporting has made a real impact. These tips have directly led to law enforcement making arrests, says Settles.
For example, after a resident called about a loud noise and two men running away from a vehicle, police discovered a stolen vehicle and plates, a stolen handgun, a machete, multiple garage-door openers, and break-and-entry tools. Outstanding warrants on the perpetrators were discovered and arrests were made.
"That removed two really bad people from the neighbourhood," said Settles. "We encourage people to understand what they are doing is the right thing. CPS (Calgary Police Service) wants this information; it is not a waste of their time."
As a side benefit of participation, neighbours have gotten to know each other better, Settles says.
"It's been a really nice change, and one where I am noticing more neighbours nodding and waving to each other. It's a fantastic program that way. It was grassroots with a bunch of guys and girls essentially fed up with the status quo and grew from there. We see great value in the program."