-By Ken Slack, Town Creek resident and HOA member
Crime Watch Needed Now as Much as Ever (and for new reasons):
Before Town Creek launched its crime watch program 26 years ago, all of us who lived here were aware of persistent crime in the area. I was personally aware that on two different occasions my long-time neighbor, Jim Hobson (who still lives on Vista Oaks), had two vehicles stolen while he was at home. In addition, he and his family put up with frequent vandalized property and petty crime that was both disturbing and expensive. Also, my neighbor next door had a car stolen from in front of his house.
Then, sometime in 1992 while my wife and I were serving as the HOA president couple, one of Town Creek’s residents, Jacqueline Varma (still lives on Loma Vista), came to me and suggested the board consider starting a crime watch program. Prompted by the frequent sounds of gunfire, she had gathered information from other neighborhoods that had experienced success with their programs. As a result, the TC board decided to hold a neighborhood-wide meeting at Skyview Elementary to discuss the feasibility, and assess the desire, to start a program of our own.
I was shocked at the large number of people who showed up. There were probably 60 or 70 people. Homeowners learned that other neighborhoods had started what the Dallas Police Department called their Enhanced Neighborhood Patrol (ENP). With ENP, the department provided off-duty officers and a cruiser for rent. These other neighborhoods that had signed up for ENP had seen an almost immediate drop in crime. The Town Creek group decided to pursue an ENP program rather than hiring private security; deciding that a DPD officer driving a marked police car on neighborhood streets would be a stronger deterrent to criminals.
The first thing we did after the meeting was to draw up a neighborhood grid and assign board members and other resident volunteers to go door-to-door to talk to as many homeowners as possible. Afterwards, we all realized there was tremendous support for such a program as a huge number wanted to join. According to Jacque Varma, “it was truly a collaborative community effort. We were going to protect what we had.” And that’s how Town Creek’s Crime Watch (CW) program got started.
Results back then:
Improvements were almost instantaneous. It wasn’t like ten or 15 percent. It was at 40, 50, then 60 percent reduction in crime. Amazing. To this day the Crime Watch program has a documented history of success over many years.
Reasons for Crime Watch Today:
According to HOA President and Crime Watch Advisory Committee member, Jennifer Duval, “…now that Crime Watch runs so well, we are not hearing much about car thefts and other serious criminal activity in our neighborhood.”
In my opinion that’s good news and bad news at the same time. The good news is obvious – reduced crime. The bad news is we are seeing an ever-increasing number of Town Creek homeowners dropping out of the CW program and fewer new residents who are joining. With CW funded patrol hours decreasing due to lost revenue, the program could be in jeopardy. As a long-time TC resident and CW member, this trend is distressing for at least two reasons:
Reason #1: A relatively safe neighborhood is being taken for granted by many residents at a time when organized criminal activity in Dallas has increased, including an up-tick in stolen vehicles. (Dallas Morning News, Metro Section B page 1, April 9, 2019.)
Reason #2: A drastically short-handed Dallas Police Department is unable to respond quickly (if at all).
Nice-to-have and convenient individual surveillance and private alarm systems undoubtedly are giving neighbors some sense of security. That’s okay, and effective, for detecting criminal intent at your doorstep. However, being a Crime Watch member can give residents added peace-of-mind knowing their dollars are supporting a proven system that absolutely discourages criminals from targeting the entire neighborhood. And just as each of us continue to invest in property maintenance, investing in a safer neighborhood can mean increased property values.
In tantum with these individual home alert systems, CW members can immediately submit captured images using the proprietary cell phone number (available only to CW members). This number is monitored by patrol officers when on duty. Of course, making a report to 9-1-1 is still highly recommended.
Yes, it’s easy to take Crime Watch for granted. But all my long-term friends have stayed in it for years. We also like to pay it off the first of the year knowing that getting the money on the books helps establish a more effective patrol schedule. And the more CW members enrolled, the more patrol hours. And the more hours paid for, the more likely an officer will be on duty when needed. I encourage every homeowner to back the program and make the investment in a safer and more desirable neighborhood. Bottom line, it’s a really good value.
Ken and Betsey Slack were the president couple for the 1992 Town Creek HOA board of directors when the Crime Watch program began twenty-seven years ago. That was after a rash of car break-ins, home burglaries, and gun shots being heard in Town Creek. Today, the Slacks still live in Town Creek (on Middle Downs) and recognize the continued value of our Crime Watch program. They remain committed to its success.