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Snohomish block watch efforts may soon go digital

SNOHOMISH — The digital age of the Public Safety Commission is a little closer to dawning.
The committee recently provided website design suggestions and a digital neighborhood block watch start-up tool kit to Police Chief Keith Rogers for preliminary approval.
Rogers is the first reviewer; City Attorney Grant Weed will take the second look at the materials that the commission is aiming to have published on the city’s website.
The commission’s goal is to encourage block watches throughout the city after the success of the program in Morgantown, which has already spawned several neighborhood watches. The Morgantown watch has reported a 96 percent crime reduction since its inception eight years ago.
The start-up kit will include tips on establishing a block watch and help standardize best practices a little, but stop short of regulating activity. The site could help interested residents connect and organize through online tools such as member rosters and neighborhood maps.
After review by Rogers and Weed, the commission plans to present its work to the City Council, likely sometime in late spring, said commissioner Donna Ray.
As the website design has begun to take shape, its content has become more concrete.
At its Jan. 9 meeting, the commission discussed different types of approaches to neighborhood watches.
“To me, a block watch was people wandering the neighborhood, so people know someone might come around the corner while I’m doing this (illegal) thing,” said Jim Schmoker*, a commission regular and Snohomish Fire District 4 board member.
“I will give ‘the hairy eyeball’ to someone I know is up to no good,” Ray said.
Commissioners also gave examples of neighborhood watch members who would take it upon themselves to talk to suspected drug users or other individuals who seemed to be acting suspiciously.
Commissioners do not endorse direct confrontation and law enforcement officials almost universally advise that people call the police rather than confront anyone who might be dangerous or engaging in illegal activity.
Given the potential liability if an individual was injured while involved in block watch activity, the group discussed clarifying that the block watches were self-governing and not city managed.
“I support it, I just don’t want the hindrance of liability,” said City Councilwoman Linda Redmon.
Once the liability concern is addressed and the digital content finalized, Ray hopes to launch the initiative with a kickoff event in conjunction with the city.
People interested can attend the commission’s next meeting, Tuesday, Feb. 13 at 5 p.m. at the Fire District 4 Training Annex at 1525 Ave. D.

* - CORRECTION Feb. 28
In two stories that included reporting from January’s Public Safety Commission meeting, published Jan. 24 titled “Snohomish block watch efforts may soon go digital” and published Feb. 21 titled “Volunteer commission may take on social issues,” Fire District No. 4 Fire Chief Ron Simmons was incorrectly attributed in quotes. The correct attribution is to Fire Board Commissioner Jim Schmoker.
The Tribune regrets the errors.


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