On a quiet Langford cul-de-sac, neighbours are watching out for each other.
A new road sign identifies the street as a Block Watch zone where suspicious activities are reported to police. Gary Blechingberg, the self-appointed block captain on Carmanah Place, hopes it will help deter property crimes that have peppered the area.
“When I went around asking people to be involved in this, everybody had a story,” Blechingberg said, citing a several vehicle break-ins, including one where a brazen thief found a garage door opener in a car and used it to gain access to the home.
“Now if something happens we can tell everybody else.”
Then neighbours can take extra precautions in case the offender returns as well as report to police if they saw anything out of the ordinary around the time of the crime.
West Shore RCMP Cpl. Kathy Rochlitz says the program is known to reduce the rate of break and enters, especially as more blocks join the program.
“We offer training on how to report a crime and what to do to keep your home and property safe,” Rochlitz said. “Even just having the sign up on a street is a deterrent to crime.”
Before bringing the provincial Block Watch to the area this summer, West Shore RCMP had offered its own Neighbourhood Watch program with the same mandate, but it slipped out of date with nobody to ensure contact information for blocks were kept current.
RCMP auxiliary Const. Judy Pryce is co-ordinating the new program and a dozen new auxiliary officers are going through training to assist her. Eventually the old Neighbourhood Watch groups will be switched over and new areas solicited for participation.
Pryce said besides offering greater security to an area, Block Watch participants get a discount on their home insurance, and it gives neighbours a reason to get to know each other.
“Each individual block is unique, and the program is really whatever the group wants to make of it,” she said, noting that her own View Royal block started holding regular neighbourhood barbecues since joining the former watch program four years ago.
At a minimum, the block captain and co-captain are responsible for holding one annual meeting of the block and keeping a current map with contact information for everyone in their area who has voluntarily opted into the program.
RCMP use the captains to disseminate information such as crime statistics. Eventually emergency preparedness information from the fire halls may also go out through the captains.
For more information or to sign your area up for Block Watch call 250-391-3327 or email email@example.com.