By Art Hanson on August 31st, 2009
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This is how Neighborhood Watch works
Most of the time we don’t discuss “Success Stories”. However, some of the reports filed this past Friday involved me personally so I hope that no one minds if I make an exception. As I mentioned in my previous post, my wife’s car was broken into last Thursday night. They took her purse, wallet and two cell phones. After calling the police, I filed a report on Nation of Neighbors and checked my email. Sure enough, we weren’t the only ones in the area who had been hit – there were some other local reports – a stolen package, cars broken into and a stolen dirt bike. The beauty of it was that the reports created a walking path – it was easy to see that the criminals were likely on foot. We live in a rural area and, knowing that thieves who steal purses don’t like to be seen carrying them for long, I grabbed my camera and went for a walk.
It didn’t take long to find footprints in the grass along the side of the road that led to a box they had swiped from a neighbor’s car. They had ripped the box open as they walked and, thanks to the pieces they left behind and their footprints in the tall grass, it was easy to tell which direction they went next. I continued to follow their trail into the woods and, before long I found a receipt with my wife’s name on it. A little more searching revealed her purse, wallet and other belongings thrown into the woods. They had gone through everything looking for cash but had no use for the pennies, which they threw on the ground.
I continued to follow their trail and collected some additional property that did not belong to me and eventually located the missing dirtbike at the bottom of a small ravine next to a road. I called the sheriff’s office. We recovered the dirtbike (which was towed to the Sheriff’s Office until the owner could come claim it) and I returned the other items I found to their owners. Thanks to some alert neighbors there are suspects and the police are following up.
The only item of ours unaccounted for is an older iPod nano – I hope they enjoy Bluegrass and the Nation of Neighbors video we had saved on it.
I know that most incidents don’t end so well, whether there’s a Neighborhood Watch or not. However, I think my experience does illustrate some important points:
Don’t leave anything valuable in your car.
When we share the pieces of information we know quickly, we’re able to build a more complete picture of what happened and improve outcomes for everyone. Everyone except the people who stole your stuff.
By Art Hanson on August 28th, 2009
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My wife called me from work this morning to let me know that someone had broken into her car last night. She stopped at a gas station and looked for her wallet – then she noticed papers from the glovebox on the floor, the rear window of her SUV was messed up, bike rack hanging off, cell phones gone… So we’ve deactivated the credit cards and cell phones, filed a police report and reported it on Nation of Neighbors so our neighbors know to be alert.
The irony of our July newsletter focusing on avoiding vehicle break-ins is not lost on me. If there’s a silver lining here, it’s that they really didn’t get anything of value except some useless plastic, a couple of now useless cell phones and some photos of our kids we very much wish we still had. That, and I have a very good reminder of why I’ve worked so hard to build Nation of Neighbors over the past few years.
We’re coming for you, punks.
By Art Hanson on August 11th, 2009
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There have been a lot of references recently to the use of Twitter by law enforcement and community crime watch groups. I thought it might be helpful, especially if you haven’t heard of us before, to describe what Nation of Neighbors is and how it works, in relation to Twitter.
Twitter facilitates the exchange of short message between users based on user level subscriptions. You elect to ‘follow’ certain users and can receive an update when users you are following add new messages. You can also view a chronological list of messages from users that you are following and there mechanisms for replying and rebroadcasting other users messages to your own list of followers.
Nation of Neighbors broadcasts messages based on geographical location. You are automatically networked to other users who are in your local community and to any participating local law enforcement agencies.
Let’s look at how a scenario might play out with both Twitter and Nation of Neighbors.
You arrive home and find your house was broken into. After you call the police you:
* post the crime on Twitter. Your followers (subscribers) find out about the crime and may retweet it if they happen to live in the same locality as you.
* report the crime on Nation of Neighbors. The information, including the approximate location is sent immediately to your actual neighbors and law enforcement who can submit tips or feedback.
A few more differences:
Twitter allows you to send text and links – adding content to Nation of Neighbors is more like Facebook in that you can add images, links, files, events…
Maintaining a local community network via Twitter requires that each participant follow every other participant. While it’s possible, it’s hard to maintain. Nation of Neighbors provides the community level network automatically while still allowing community managers to control access to their network.
Anyone can create a Twitter account. Only verified law enforcement agencies can create an agency account on Nation of Neighbors.
I’ll add some more examples to this list later this week. In the meantime, here’s a recent excerpt mentioning both Nation of Neighbors and Twitter with regard to crime.
While social networking plays only a small role in national security, community safety could be enormously improved by expanding resident reporting systems, like WatchJeffersonCounty.net [editor's note: now Nation of Neighbors], which collects reports of unusual behaviors. These reports provide important clues for civic officials to prevent crimes, control teenage gangs, or simply fix potholes. A huge success, now run by the U.S. Dept of Justice, is the Amber Alert reporting system for abducted children. Beyond the 430 cases they claim to have helped solve, the awareness generated among 7 million participants may have prevented many more abductions. Websites for reporting extreme weather effects, such as Storm Watchers typically run by local radio/TV stations, are being joined by reporting schemes for earthquake damage, influenza outbreaks, food poisoning, and other community problems. The micro-blogging tool, Twitter, is now rapidly spreading, as users from Orange County firefighters to Mumbai police post their 140-character messages about where they are and what they are doing.
A National Initiative for Social Participation
Science 13 March 2009: 1426-1427
By Art Hanson on August 7th, 2009
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I had high hopes for ‘Government 2.0′ when I first heard the term used earlier this year. While this concept may not be directly related to crime or Neighborhood Watch, the idea that private citizens and organizations can partner with local government agencies to enhance existing services for all involved parties underpins what we’ve been doing for the past several years.
I’ve recently listened to Tim O’Reilly discuss his concept of Government as a platform and read through the list of selected presentations for the upcoming Expo Showcase and, I have to admit – I’m a little disappointed. I’ve spent more time than I probably should thinking about the interaction between local government and citizens and what I’ve heard so far leaves out some important issues. Here are a few of those issues that I hope to hear discussed at the upcoming Gov2.0 events. Read the rest of this entry »
By Art Hanson on August 4th, 2009
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Tonight has been designated National Night Out by the National Association of Town Watch (NATW).
Last year’s National Night Out campaign involved citizens, law enforcement agencies, civic groups, businesses, neighborhood organizations and local officials from over 15,000 communities from all 50 states, U.S. territories, Canadian cities and military bases worldwide. In all, over 37 million people participated in National Night Out 2008.
NATIONAL NIGHT OUT is designed to:
* Heighten crime and drug prevention awareness;
* Generate support for, and participation in, local anticrime programs;
* Strengthen neighborhood spirit and police-community partnerships; and
* Send a message to criminals letting them know that neighborhoods are organized and fighting back.
Perhaps most importantly, National Night Out provides an opportunity for neighbors and law enforcement to meet face to face over hot dogs in a community setting.
For more information or to find out if your town is having an event: http://www.nationalnightout.org/nno/index.html