Police & Fire

Neighborhood Watch Initiative for The North End Fizzles Out

Many had high hopes for the Neighborhood Watch program initiated after May’s Public Safety meeting at The Nazzaro Center. In fact, the list of registrants rose to forty by two weeks before the first Neighborhood Watch meeting at the end of June. Unfortunately, turnout came in at a half dozen for that meeting itself.

Richie Montemanaro read a statement at this first meeting that suggested the watch group enumerate issues, carefully devise solutions and implement them lawfully and strategically. It was clear from the beginning that Neighborhood Watch would need to be an initiatives-based endeavor with volunteers taking on each issue via individual or team effort. For instance, it was suggested that one person could be the liaison to the colleges and universities. Another could work with the RMV to get signs on Hanover alerting to the dangers of leaving valuables in unattended vehicles. And a team might be formed to work with entertainment establishments on such items as the installation of signs that remind exiting patrons to be respectful and quiet on their treks home.

While these are all noble endeavors, the traditional structure of a Neighborhood Watch program is a network of citizens connected through block captains, phone trees and patrols. This is not a fit for a neighborhood whose concerned residents are trying to sleep during the periods when The Boston Police Department has no control over the mayhem. And what Neighborhood Watch was morphing into was anything but a traditional program. Worse, any calls to identify volunteers to take on non-traditional initiatives went unanswered.

With an agenda that included the hot topic of an ordinance tailored to combat quality of life issues, only two neighbors showed up to the July 25th Neighborhood Watch meeting. Carolyn MacNeil, Director of Neighborhood Watch programs for The Boston Police, called the meeting off before it began. If the Neighborhood Watch group is going to ever be built, whether in the traditional format or as a unique and customized program, such adversity cannot be met with quitting.

However, it is my ardent belief that a watch program is not going to solve our problems or attract enough soldiers in this war. While there is a fine line between holding landlords responsible for the actions of their tenants and holding them responsible for sound management, we need an ordinance expanded to include landlord accountability. And we need for our police to set the tone via citations and arrests. If there is one element in all of this that has been most powerfully proclaimed, it is the need for enforcement, enforcement and more enforcement.

The fate of The Neighborhood Watch Program is out of my hands now. The existing watch member registration list is on file with Carolyn MacNeil. Carolyn has not returned my requests for comment or updates. Any further inquiries about the fate of any watch program should be directed to her office at The Boston Police headquarters. That number would be 617-343-5682.

Brian Brandt