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Ask the Chief Deputy: Community block watch groups help fight crime

October 2, 2018

Throughout Skagit County, community block watch programs exist in many forms — small email groups, private Facebook groups, meetings with neighbors once a month, etc.

The Sheriff’s Office strongly encourages these groups of people to continue having meetings, talking to one another and watching out for each other in the community.

It doesn’t have to be an official watch group. It can simply be a gathering of neighbors with concerns about crime who want to make their community safer.

I have written many columns over the years about reducing the chances of becoming a victim of a property crime. I have enjoyed all of the emails and phone calls received about that and am happy to go to the various neighborhoods for their block watch meetings. While I feel some of our crime has been reduced, we still see some increases.

From July 1, 2017, to Sept. 25, 2017, there were 106 burglaries. There were 100 during the same time period in 2018. Meanwhile, vehicle prowls rose from 47 from July 1, 2017, to Sept. 25, 2017 to 69 over the same time period this year.

There is always room for improvement, and I know as a team we can reduce these numbers more each year.

One strong indicator of community involvement is the number of suspicious calls we get.

When you see something in your neighborhood that just doesn’t feel or look right, you should call 911 to report what you have witnessed. You live there, so you are going to know more about your neighborhood than deputies will. We will respond to complaints and take enforcement action as applicable.

Even if we do not see the issue you call about, it brings a law enforcement presence to your neighborhood and may help deter the criminal element that may have been sneaking around.

Suspicious calls dropped a bit from that same July-September period in 2017 to this year. Calls dropped from 500 to 454.

That’s actually an area we would like to see increase because it’s a good indicator of community involvement.

Get to know your neighbors. Know what cars are supposed to be in their driveways, and be suspicious of those you don’t recognize when you know your neighbor is gone. Remember that neighborhood watch programs are to report suspicious activities, reduce crime and increase neighborhood safety.

We encourage your neighborhood group to have as many meetings as possible. Depending upon the group’s activities, this can be once a month or once a quarter. When you have these gatherings, the Sheriff’s Office is more than happy to attend to give crime prevention tips and talk about crime trends in your neighborhood.

Regular meetings bring neighbors together, which leads to a greater sense of unity and can bring neighbors together as friends.

Please email me if your group is interested in hosting a watch meeting, or if you are interested in getting something started in your neighborhood.

— Chad Clark is chief of Patrol Operations for the Skagit County Sheriff’s Office. Send questions to askpatrolchief@gmail.com.

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