Monday, January 26, 2009

PART II: Starting a New NW Group

Let's imagine Henrietta Pussy Cat wishes to start a NW group in the Neighborhood of Make-Believe: "Meow Meow Henrietta Pussy Cat meow wants meow to take a bite out of crime meow." What steps can she take to achieve her goal?

I'm sure alternate paths to action exist, but here's a run down of how we got the ball rolling in Garfield Park. I put time estimates after each step; they feel accurate, but memory is a fickle thing.

Step 1. Call Pomona Police Department's Crime Prevention Unit. (909) 620-2318. After you give your address, the CPU will be able to tell you who serves as the Crime Prevention Specialist (CPS) for your area. The Specialist for your area is your go-to person for all things Neighborhood Watch. 15 minutes.

Step 2. Read the Information Packet. Your CPS person will likely send you a packet of information about Pomona's NW program. As I recall, our packet contained lots of useful information and tips for organizing watch groups; I think there were some preliminary forms to fill out, too. 1 hour.

Step 3. Select a date and time for your first NW meeting. Coordinate this time with your CPS, as she or he will want to be there to help facilitate the meeting, to get a sense of community interest, and to support you. At this point, your CPS may contact the watch captain on your behalf to request the presence of an officer at your meeting (if you don't want an officer present, it is AOK to let your CPS know this). 5 minutes.

Step 4. Make Fliers. Ask your CPS if she or he would be willing and available to create and duplicate a flier announcing your meeting. You will need to know how many fliers to request, so count doors in the neighborhood before placing the call. To help encourage broad participation, it is a good idea to print the fliers in both Spanish and English; doing so signals to neighbors all are welcome -- not just English speakers (we struggle with this impression in our neighborhood).

Frankly, at least for the first meeting, I think it would be a good idea to request at least two sets of fliers. The first flier, which you could distribute a couple weeks in advance of the meeting, would announce the existence of the group and invite neighbors to "save the date" for the first meeting. The second flier, which you could distribute 2 - 4 days before the meeting, would serve as a reminder, and perhaps an invitation to "meet your neighbors and share your concerns." 5 minutes (requesting the fliers is easy; the CPS is doing the hard work here -- be thankful)

Step 5. Distribute the fliers. Knock on doors, introduce yourself. Don't be surprised if neighbors want to share their concerns with you on the spot. Validate their concerns and let them know you hope they'll consider sharing their thoughts at the meeting. 30 minutes (this time estimate, of course, depends on the size of your area).

Step 6. Stay in contact with your CPS. Let her or him know about any concerns you have about the actual meeting. Ask questions.

Step 7. Prepare a simple agenda. It will likely include: introductions, concerns, plans for the next meeting. 5 minutes

Step 8. Gather supplies. Definitely bring a sing-in sheet (with spaces for name, address, phone number, e-mail), a pen or two, and a notebook for your own use. In addition, you may wish to bring the following to the meeting: name tags, markers for the name tags, extra pens, maps of the neighborhood which people can use to "x" any problem areas, light refreshments (totally optional). 10 minutes.

Step 9. Knock on doors. We find that, even with the fliers (and now the snazzy yellow yard signs), it is useful to go door-to-door in the hour or moments preceding the meeting to encourage people to come by. Some people forget about the meeting; others just need a little extra reminder that their input is valued. 30 minutes.

Step 10. Enjoy your first meeting! The CPS will likely arrive a few minutes early and will bring a bunch of window stickers and placards, informational brochures, etc. As people arrive, introduce yourself, offer a name tag (if you decide to use them), and ask everyone to sign-in. You or the CPS can kick off the meeting once it looks like most everyone has settled in. 1 - 2 hours, depending on attendance and level of enthusiasm.

[Today's image obtained from Three cheers for Fred Rogers, who taught us what it means to be a good neighbor.]

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