In my blog, “Community Connections” I shared that we were excited to start a Neighborhood Watch group in our community. Every neighbor we spoke to was pleased that we were starting such a group and they were interested in participating. We’d contacted the police and been connected to a community member who mentors new Neighborhood Watch groups.
At our first meeting we had a total of 9 people present. Our mentor was very encouraging, provided a lot of materials and some of the folks present were able to talk to him about their specific concerns.
At our next meeting we had our mentor return along with a Police Captain and Mayor. They took information about concerns our neighbors expressed and provided us with information about how to respond when we see suspicious activity. As soon as they got up to leave, so did the rest of the group.
It seemed promising, that we had a good turn out for our first couple of meetings. Our next meeting was going to be our core group that started the process. Since everyone got up and left when our guest speakers left at the last meeting we thought we should meet to take care of some organizational things. Only a couple of people showed up. Everyone was discouraged by the turn out.
The next meeting, we had the Police Chief as a guest speaker. Our turn out was improved, but as soon as he got up to leave, so did everyone else. I managed to get a handful of people to stay. One individual said that we shouldn’t be talking about patrolling the neighborhood or establishing block captains until we get to know one another. We decided to have a cook out in May for the group so we could socialize and get better acquainted. We decided that the April meeting would be our opportunity to plan for May. We had to change the day of the week for one of the original members of the group, as she went ahead and scheduled another activity on the day we’d agreed we’d have our neighborhood watch meetings.
Our April meeting rolled around after a 2 month Winter break. Only one person attended besides my husband and myself.
We decided to forgo the cookout because we couldn’t plan for it and didn’t know who might or might not attend, so we didn’t want anyone to assume expenses only to have it go to waste.
The following morning I received two emails, one saying the person forgot with an apology and the other from the woman who asked that we reschedule for Wednesdays to accommodate the other activity she’d scheduled. She said she thought the meeting was Thursday and had sent her husband down, who’d knocked on the door without an answer. (We were out to dinner.)
One member of the group moved out of the neighborhood, another was living out of the neighborhood for three months and another contacted me to tell me they weren’t planning to stay in the neighborhood much longer. We’ve not heard from the neighbor who’d originally started all of this by asking the Mayor to tour our neighborhood.
It’s so discouraging. The experience seems to be universal. People want “someone” to do something about the problems that they encounter, but they aren’t willing to actually do something themselves. They are eager to be involved until you ask them to take some responsibility, suddenly their lives are too busy for 2 hours out of their month.
I’m ready to give up. I decided before I walk away from the idea of coordinating the neighborhood watch I’m going to include another block of people on the same street and see if we can get more participation from that area of the neighborhood.
If we don’t get more interest, more consistent participation, then my husband and I have discussed not pursuing this any longer. We can’t make people be responsible and participate, so if they make it clear they aren’t interested, there isn’t much else we can do.
It was a good effort and a good idea. We have meetings scheduled through June, so once we’ve had those meetings, we’ll make the decision as to whether we continue or not.