By Christina McDonough Hunt
No doubt you have seen those Neighborhood Watch signs posted in various neighborhoods, maybe even yours. But, as residents in the River Ridge community around 158th and Kenneth Rd saw crime rise in their neighborhood, one resident took the Neighborhood Watch program a step further.
Mike Lane began the River Ridge Community Patrol 10 years ago after attending a meeting held to discuss an incident where a stolen car was set ablaze in a neighbor’s driveway.
“Someone stole a car from Missouri. He drove it to our neighborhood, set it on fire in a neighbor’s driveway, and then stole that neighbor’s car from the garage,” Lane said.
As residents began talking to each other at the meeting they discovered that there were many unreported crimes occurring throughout the neighborhood. Lane felt something had to be done to prevent future crimes and after talks with local law enforcement, he and a few neighbors organized the River Ridge Community Patrol.
River Ridge Community Patrol consists of resident volunteers who take turns patrolling the neighborhood at night. Their duties mainly include driving through the community and providing an extra set of eyes for the neighborhood. Volunteers take crime prevention measures by knocking on a resident’s door to let them know that their garage door is open.
“We are not the police. We do not confront people,” Land said. “But we can call the sheriff and be a set of eyes so when the sheriff arrives we can help.”
In addition to the volunteer patrol hours, the River Ridge community invested in high tech cameras that are capable of reading license plates. Lane says that cameras are strategically set up all over the neighborhood and have been instrumental in helping to solve crimes, including a few arrests and finding a few lost dogs.
“You can’t get in or out of our neighborhood without your plate being read or being seen,” Lane chuckled.
The program’s success has attracted residents to the River Ridge community and offers a sense of security.
“The community patrol is the reason I chose to move to the neighborhood,” said Dr. Dan Hecker, Winding River Animal Clinic Veterinarian and River Ridge resident. “And with the way things are going these days, it’s been a tremendous success. We feel safer.”
Lane described one recent incident as proof of the program’s success.
“Recently I received a call in the middle of the night from a resident who was concerned about a man sitting in his car outside of her house and others walking around the street. We were able to call the sheriff and get to her house in minutes.”
Lane says ‘we just don’t want bad things to happen’ and that sentiment is the driving force behind this program. He’s grateful for all the volunteers who help make the program a success and says the River Ridge community is ‘more than a neighborhood, it’s family.’
If you are interested in setting up a community patrol for your neighborhood, Lane has some advice. First, make sure you get educated about crime prevention. You are not police officers, so know your abilities. Second, touch base with your local law enforcement. They can give you tips and they likely have a neighborhood watch program that can help you get started.
The River Ridge community is located at 158th and Kenneth Rd.