Neighborhood Conference: Crime and safety

Betsy Pickle
Features columnist

Note: The city’s recent Neighborhood Conference drew more than 700 citizens to the Knoxville Convention Center to gather information on how to improve their communities. With 30-odd breakout sessions in three time slots, no one could possibly absorb everything, but the Shopper will be offering a look into three workshops that offered some of the basic and most popular subjects.

Concern about crime unites neighborhoods in every geographic and economic area of Knoxville and Knox County. The workshop “Getting Organized To Fight Crime” brought together city and county law-enforcement officials and neighborhood leaders to talk about problems, successes and strategies.

One good first step can be a Neighborhood Watch. The panelists recommended getting the pulse of the neighborhood to see if there is interest in such a group. Captains responsible for 10 to 18 houses should be recruited. Food is a good enticement to get people to come to meetings.

Katy Davis, education coordinator/crime prevention for the Knox County Sheriff’s Office, said there are 300 neighborhood watches in the county, and they are the eyes and ears of the community. They are the ones who see what’s going on and can communicate with their neighbors and with officers.

Davis suggested creating a neighborhood directory, but many people don’t feel they know their neighbors and might be hesitant to cast a wide net. She pointed out that people establishing a Neighborhood Watch aren’t obligated to invite everyone to join.

Most neighborhood crimes are crimes of opportunity, she said. Generally, criminals are not professionals and are looking for a quick in and out to steal items such as prescription drugs, guns and electronics while people are at work.

Davis said residents should acknowledge any knock at the door, even if they don’t open the door, so that would-be intruders will know someone is at home. Deterrents such as lighting, landscaping, not letting mail or newspapers pile up, keeping garage doors shut and locking vehicles are also good strategies.

Susan Stewart of Riverbend Peninsula Homeowners Association said is a good resource for finding out what crimes are taking place in your neighborhood.

Neighbors can help law enforcement by writing down or taking photos of the license plates and markings of strange vehicles. An email or Internet group can help not only with theft, but also with missing pets.

Whether it’s a Neighborhood Watch, a community organization or a homeowners’ association, neighborhood groups are a way to let criminals know that residents care about their community and are on the lookout for them.

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