Block Watch program comes to Pemberton 

Property crimes reduction the primary focus of initiative

By Cindy Filipenko

Repeated run ins with unruly neighbourhood teens has convinced a Pemberton woman that it’s time to introduce a Block Watch program into The Glen, the neighbourhood colloquially known as Vinyl Village.

While the activity has been confined to petty vandalism and trespassing, it has still been unnerving.

“We’ve had to deal with teenagers in the neighbourhood; there’s a group of them going around being destructive,” said Shelley Williams, of her decision to pursue organizing the program. “I just want something positive to come out of that experience.”

Block Watch is the latest incarnation of programs such as Block Parent and Neighbourhood Watch, citizen-run programs familiar to anyone having grown up in the suburbs of the ’70s and ’80s. The philosophy behind the program is that a vigilant neighbourhood is a neighbourhood with lower crime.

Block Watch is implemented with the assistance of local RCMP detachments. The police help to ensure the safety of the program by doing such things as running criminal records checks on participants. The Block Watch Society of B.C. provides training and support materials for a nominal membership fee. The society also co-ordinates the link of community programs to each other, provides ongoing training and sharing of “best practices” and works with police agencies to assist with problem solving, suggesting and supporting strategies for positive change.

The primary focus of Block Watch is the reduction of the risk of property crime — particularly residential and auto crimes. Other positive spin-offs of the program are increased personal safety, increased crime awareness and increased safety and protection of personal property by increasing knowledge of security measures.

According to the organization’s website there are currently 150,000 British Columbians participating in the program.

“The police just want to know that you’re a good person and not a possible threat to any kids,” explained Williams, who in her role as an after school care provider has undergone a criminal record check.

Homes displaying the Block Watch signs are promoted as “safe houses” for anyone in trouble, with a particular emphasis on kids.

“Say a kid’s at the park and some stranger approaches them and they feel uncomfortable. They have a place to go. It’s not just in the city these things happen,” she pointed out, recalling an incident that happened a couple years back. A man, who was known to police as a pedophile, wandered into a home with young children in broad daylight. Although nothing happened, it was a wake-up call.

Williams and her family have called Pemberton home for six years. One of the aspects of the program that she likes reflects what she likes about Pemberton: community spirit.

“The program really brings people together — they get to know each other and watch out for each other,” she said.

Williams has committed to becoming Block Watch captain, but a co-captain will also be needed, as will participating members. She is currently working in conjunction with the Pemberton RCMP to initiate the program.

“Constable Scott is really enthusiastic about starting a program in Pemberton,” said Williams.

A community meeting will be held once all the information has been gathered. In the meantime, anyone interested in helping Williams establish this program is invited to call her at 604-894-5147.

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