Ways citizens can help improve their neighborhoods and the city

April 30, 1999|By Mary Eilerman

WHEN IT comes to fighting crime, no one should sit on his or her hands. Here are some things city neighborhood groups can do:

* Develop a "court watch" committee. Each community should have residents who attend court sessions involving criminal cases of concern to their neighborhoods. If residents don't think the criminal justice system is protecting their community as it should, they can write their elected officials to complain.

* Fix broken windows. Criminals are attracted to neighborhoods where it appears that no one cares. If someone breaks a window and it is not promptly repaired, then soon someone else will come by and decide that it's safe to throw a rock and break another window. Eventually, such a neighborhood attracts criminals. Crime and grime go hand in hand. Make sure your neighborhood looks like the residents care about it.

* Block watch. Join the block representative program, which is a partnership between the residents of a neighborhood, the police department and other city agencies designed to address quality of life issues, such as vacant houses, illegal dumping, drug trafficking and rodent control.

* Citizen on Patrol. By walking, driving or biking with your neighbors, you can serve as the eyes and ears of your community as a certified Citizen on Patrol. Under this program, the city police department provides training, cell phones and other equipment for residents interested in regularly patrolling their neighborhoods, looking for problems.

* Volunteer. Citizens of good character are needed to help run athletic and after-school programs at the city's 27 Police Athletic League centers, which provide activities for local youths. By investing time in our youths, we will make significant strides in reducing crime in communities. Also, the Volunteer in Policing program (VIP) recruits volunteers to perform administrative tasks formerly done by police, allowing officers to spend more time in the city's neighborhoods.

To become a block representative, Citizen on Patrol, Volunteer in Policing, or to discover other ways to help make a difference in your neighborhood, call 311, the police nonemergency phone number, for more information. With your help, community policing will continue to be successful.

Violent crime has fallen by more than 30 percent in the city during the past three years thanks to strong policing and active citizen involvement. To continue this trend, develop a partnership with the Baltimore police, and continue to improve the quality of life in your community.

Lt. Mary Eilerman, the community coordinator assigned to the Community Resources Bureau at city police headquarters, has been a member of the Baltimore police force for 17 years.

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