COLUMBIA — Benton-Stephens residents gathered Monday evening next to “Sol House” on Moss Street to enjoy hamburgers and hotdogs and to learn about starting a successful Neighborhood Watch program, with preventive crime tips from guest speaker Officer Mike Hayes.
Some of the attending residents received the event reminder, while others followed the smoke and aroma of hamburgers and hot dogs grilled by Bob Webb, pastor of Memorial Baptist Church.
“This is our second Neighborhood Watch meeting, and it’s a bigger turnout than our first one, which only three people showed up to,” resident Rachel Whearty said. The turnout for the night was 17 people.
Waiting in line for food, people talked and passed plates to one another, while neighborhood resident Heather Windham offered chilled iced tea.
The event was a first for Jonathan Tallmage and Shannon Daugherty, a young couple who have only been Benton-Stephens residents for seven months. Daugherty said they decided to come because they felt they needed to meet their neighbors and were curious as to what tips and information Hayes would present.
Hayes began his presentation shortly after the residents were finished eating.
Hayes offered preventive crime tips for communities participating in the Neighborhood Watch program. His tips included:
- Look out for other neighbors. “Criminals know when neighborhoods are incohesive,” Hayes said.
- Be observant of any suspicious activity.
- Keep accessible entries to your house locked.
- Try to get a description of the suspect or a license plate number.
- Report a crime to the police as soon as possible. “The majority of the time, tips from citizens helps us solve crimes,” Hayes said.
- Include description details of race, gender, build and clothing.
- Practice continual surveillance of the neighborhood. “The neighborhood will gain a reputation, and criminals will be less inclined to come to the neighborhood,” Hayes said.
- If you leave a window open, leave the radio on and turn it to a talk show.
- Call the nonemergency number at 442-6131 or, even if it’s not an emergency, call 911 and the dispatcher will connect you with the nonemergency operator.
Hayes also spoke about two specific Neighborhood Watch programs:
Home Security program: Teaches residents how to secure their homes with effective door and window locks, adequate exterior lighting and landscaping.
Operation Identification program: Encourages residents to label their properties to enable the police to identify and find the homes. This program also gives residents a window decal to warn burglars that the home is protected.