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Meet the Mayoral Candidates: What's the role of the neighborhood watch?

Posted by Alex Pearlman  July 26, 2013 01:06 PM

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The abduction of Amy Lord outside her South Boston apartment -- her terrifying travels to five different ATMs, in plain sight of early morning commuters -- has renewed discussions about how Boston's residents might be able to look out for one another. Some of Boston's most disturbing crimes, such as June's deadly midday shooting in Mattapan, take place in city neighborhoods, where residents can serve as eyes, ears, and early warning signs. Nationwide, the Trayvon Martin case in Florida has intensified the debate about the benefits and risks of citizen crime-fighting. But what place should residents play in watching over the streets of Boston?

For the latest installment of our election series, we asked the mayoral candidates what role neighborhood watches should play in crime-fighting. Here are their answers. Add your thoughts to the comments, or tweet at the hashtag #BosMayor.

Rob Consalvo, @RobConsalvo
Boston City Councilor

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Rob Consalvo.jpgMy vision for making Boston safer includes efforts to target the people who commit crimes, the places where crimes happen and the tools criminals use to inflict violence on our neighborhoods. Neighborhood watches can be effective tools to prevent criminals from acting, but I'm also focused on wrap-around programs that help prevent at-risk young people from drifting down the wrong path and smart intervention strategies that help offenders reenter our communities as productive members.

Marty Walsh, @Marty_Walsh
State Representative

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for martywalsh.jpgStrong local crime watch groups are an essential part of any community and overall public safety network. They can be the eyes and ears on the ground for law enforcement and a direct dissemination of information for localized spikes in criminal activity. These groups of neighbors also add to the general fabric of the city by introducing neighbors and creating a sense of community. My administration would foster not just the bottom down information resource, but the bottom up as residents know their community best. I would have a robust centralized community officer program and an annual summit so that various crime watch groups could learn from each other on the best practices and ways to utilize city services.

Bill Walzcak, @BillWalczak
Community leader

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for BillWalczak.jpgNeighborhood watches are the eyes and ears of policing. Well organized watches can create safe neighborhoods by working closely with the police department. They can be enhanced via technology, however, and when I am mayor, we will have electronic alert systems across Boston similar to one that I started in my neighborhood of Columbia-Savin Hill, which alerted residents of crime incidents through email. Through this system we will get timely information on the incidents happening in our neighborhoods electronically so we can be better able to assist in keeping our communities safe.

Dan Conley, @DanFConley
Suffolk District Attorney

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for DanConley.jpgNeighborhood watches are an important and longstanding part of Boston's community policing strategy. Ongoing communication between police, prosecutors and neighborhood residents not only gives residents a greater sense of ownership and control, but provides law enforcement with vital feedback that helps to target resources towards the individuals and issues that most negatively impact the safety and quality of life in a community. Neighborhood watches also build a stronger sense of community within specific neighborhoods as the simple fact of knowing your neighbors is a crucial part of improving one's feeling of safety.

John Connolly, @JohnRConnolly
Boston City Councilor

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for johnconnolly.jpgBoston has a rich network of crime watches, civic associations, and community groups. This network is an effective and essential part of making our neighborhoods safe. These organizations not only deter crime, but also foster leadership, investment and commitment between neighbors. Crime watches are also a key part of true community policing and create an avenue for residents and police to work together.

Charlotte Golar-Richie, @Charlotte4Mayor
Former State Representative

Thumbnail image for Charlotte Golar Richie .jpgBoston’s resident-led neighborhood groups from every community are essential partners for the city to improve public safety and implement successful crime reduction strategies. They advocate for a community policing model beyond standard enforcement to include intervention and prevention. Block associations organize neighbors around teaching safety skills, building relationships with police and bonding together for a safer street environment – they are the key to “see something say something.” Informed block groups also serve as the important connection to city policy-makers to ensure that steps are taken to address safety concerns while at the same time respecting residents' rights. I have worked with great groups, from Meetinghouse Hill to Grove Hall to the South End, that made the difference in the decline of crime during the 90s. As Mayor, I’ll convene a congress of resident-led groups and ensure that Boston continues to work together with the block watch network on an ongoing basis.

John Barros, @JohnFBarros
Former school board member

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for johnbarros.jpgNeighborhood watch groups strengthen the civic infrastructure of the city in general while playing a key role in preventing crime. The more vigilant and organized the residents of our neighborhoods are the more effective the police and other city departments can be in responding to the needs of the area. Boston's neighborhood watches usually meet monthly with police and city staff to report local issues and coordinate services. They also organize block parties and other activities that bring neighbors together and build relationships. They ensure residents are working with the city to build a strong community fabric that protects against the conditions that invite crime.

Felix Arroyo, @FelixArroyo
Boston City Councilor

Mike Ross, @MikeForBoston
Boston City Councilor

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for mike_ross_headshot1.jpgPolice can't do it alone. They need neighborhood residents to play their role. A police officer could walk down a random street and not notice anything is out of place, a long term resident could open her door and notice right away that something isn't right. The strongest defense against crime is an active community where neighbor knows neighbor - where anonymity cannot serve as a place for criminals to hide. The Boston Police Department has rightly made community policing a priority. We should build on those efforts to ensure that housing, human service, and all other public agencies provide easy avenues for neighborhood groups to identify and communicate problems. In addition, we need neighborhood police substations and satellite offices, especially in high crime areas, so that communities know where they can find their local police.

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
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weiss.jpegBoston.comment is an exchange for ideas about Boston and beyond, brought to you by the Boston Globe editorial page and edited by Globe columnist Joanna Weiss. We're the sponsor of's #LabDebates and the creator of the Choose Your Own Adventure mayoral game.

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