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Get to know your neighbors with a watch group

Michael Whitney photo
Half of the Snohomish town hall event held Nov. 17 in the Carnegie Building was to chat and gather. Standing at left is Brian Mills, the current chair of the city’s public safety commission.

SNOHOMISH — The seed of almost every neighborhood watch group is from people getting to know one another.
At a town hall in the Carnegie Building last Thursday, Snohomish residents from the city's public safety commission explained the ins and outs of how to set one up to a crowd of about 35 people.
Neighbors along Avenue I count their watch group as a success. How they started was knocking on doors inviting people to meet under a pop-up canopy one evening at the nearby park and winged it. It worked.
Now neighbors meet formally about once a quarter. The bigger result is people have an idea of who lives up and down the street and have formed a network to reach each other. People who'd lived there 20 years met each other for the first time, Avenue I neighbor Jill Clark Fulmer said.
"All you can do is invite people, you cannot compel them," Avenue I neighbor Peter Messinger said.
Creating a neighborhood watch is not to fulfill or encourage anyone’s fantasy of forming a vigilante patrol.
People are encouraged to observe and call 911. They’re not encouraged to intervene or confront others, Snohomish Police Department Administrative Sgt. Chris Ventjeer said.
But by neighbors knowing more about each other, they are better able to recognize what’s “odd” or “wrong” in their neighborhood and be more effective in keeping everyone safe. It’s “sensing the unusual,” Messinger put it.
It could be a neighbor sending a quick check-in to another neighbor if a random car pulled into their driveway or if they left valuables on the porch, the police sergeant said.
Starting a small network of 15 neighbors who live close together can make for a good watch group, experts at the meeting said.
“There are so many people who would benefit from someone looking out for them,” Clark Fulmer said. “It’s OK to say you’re not alone.”
A connected community is a strong community, said Donna Ray, a key figure in establishing the Morgantown Neighborhood’s watch about 12 years ago and has since been elected to the City Council.
Morgantown set up its watch because of drug and nuisance issues in the neighborhood, she said.
A watch gives extra eyes and ears for police. “We are never too busy” to respond, Ventjeer said.
Growing a watch is done organically, the leaders said. There is no reason to delay on starting one, Ventjeer said.
By a rough guess, Ray thinks 500 of Snohomish’s 10,000 residents live in places with an active neighborhood watch.



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