Creswell, Public Safety & Health

WHILE YOU SLEEP, THE CITY IS AWAKE – Possible reboot of a Neighborhood Watch group?

These photos, found recently in a photo album in The Chronicle office, shows how active the Creswell Neighborhood Watch was in the 1970s and ’80s.These photos are believed to be from ’83. At top is the classic neighborhood watch sign. Above and below are two scenes from the Creswell Neighborhood Watch Crime Prevention Festival. The group hosted festivals with dunk tanks, food, trivia games at the City’s park; participated in parades and won awards for their ”jail float;” held neighborhood watch sheriff picinics; was visited by McGruff the Crime Prevention Dog who ”takes a bite out of crime;” and even had an office established at 143 N. 5th St. File photos

It is no secret that Creswell does not have 24-hour police coverage – neither to its citizens nor to its criminals. The lack of full coverage and limited officers can leave Creswell vulnerable, and so efforts are being made to reboot a neighborhood watch group in town.
A group such as this can be a way to mitigate that vulnerability and increase the sense of safety, said Kevin Prociw, who is trying to stir community interest in a watch group. It’s a non-confrontational volunteer group that keeps a watchful eye on the city, networking with neighbors and law enforcement to ultimately make Creswell a safer place to live.
The group, if successful, Prociw said, would raise greater awareness to crime-related activities; reduce the opportunity for crime; serve as a warning to criminals; promote neighborliness; and increase arrests and convictions.
But there has to be enough community involvement in order to gain momentum.
According to Chronicle archives, on Halloween of 1973, a sheriff’s deputy and a Creswell family decided to put a stop to the regular Halloween vandalism in town; former Deputy Elbin Mace and Gordon and Kitty Scott took the first Creswell Neighborhood Watch patrol that evening.
Using two-way radios donated by a local electronics store to communicate with each other, Mace and the Scotts spent most of the night chasing egg-throwers and window-soapers around the back roads of their rural neighborhood.
They soon realized the group could be used to stop more than holiday mischief.
Three years later, the 25 neighborhood watch groups that had been formed in Lane County were credited with helping reduce rural burglaries by nearly 40 percent.
Like the group that first formed in 1973, a moving force behind these neighborhood watch groups are to supplement the lack of manpower in the sheriff’s department.
Prociw wants to borrow instructional pages from the Veneta Neighborhood Watch group, a now-very active group in which there are nine local, active neighborhood watch groups, in addition to a patrol group. Supporters think that Creswell could benefit from such citizen protection.
Dave Quirk from the Veneta Neighborhood Watch said that their group has been at it for about four years, with several volunteers that patrol the neighborhoods regularly. They’ve purchased vehicles and equipment for their patrols. Prociw said their coordination and communication is tight and they’ve done a lot to drive crime out of their area.
Creswell Sergeant Scott Denham said he held a Neighborhood Watch meeting in town four years ago, but it did not get off the ground. But Denham said, in the age of the internet and social media, people are already acting as though they are in neighborhood watch groups, and that implementing an official watch group wouldn’t be much of a stretch.
”Neighborhood watch would kind of be what the Facebook page does now,” Denham said, referencing the Creswell Community Connection page, which is often garnished with blurbs of apparent suspicious activity around town, from suspicious persons on porches, to mail thieves and speeding drivers.
Prociw said that there are a lot of online apps and tools – including Facebook – that can be utilized for information sharing.
The implementation of a group like this in town can be as limited as expansive as the citizens desire.
”Neighborhood watch groups can range from simple clusters of neighbors that organize and agree to meet occasionally, to more robust programs that include broader and more regular coordination among several neighborhood ‘blocks,’” and could include things like foot and car patrols, though not required, Prociw said.
Denham clarified that the purpose of Neighborhood Watch is to ”observe and report,” meaning the police do not advocate for volunteers approaching or attempting to detain people.
Some feedback Prociw’s heard about a neighborhood watch group so far is that citizens simply don’t have the time to participate, but Prociw maintains that people can be involved as little or as much as they’d like. Prociw said it does not have to take much to participate in neighborhood watch; it’s simply about being vigilant.
For example, on Monday, Prociw noticed the back gate of a neighbor’s vehicle was open with the light looking dim, as though it had been open for a while.
”This is a new neighbor we’d only recently met. We walked over and rang the doorbell and told her about it and it turns out one of her little boys went out for his backpack and forgot to close it,” Prociw said. ”She thanked us and we gave her our phone number and we got hers in return. The best part of the story is that she and her kids get to get off to work and school (the next) morning incident free! And how long did it take to do that? Three minutes.”
Many are already participating in a neighborhood watch, whether they realize it or not, Prociw said. ”It is about keeping an eye out on the neighborhood,” he said. ”The level of involvement can be as simple as that; it doesn’t mean you have to go to neighborhood meetings. They can participate in digital meetings to bridge that gap.”
What the program needs to get started are volunteers who are willing to coordinate with their neighbors on their street, select a block captain, and connect with other neighbors to get them involved.
At the very minimum, Prociw wants people to participate in an online version of the neighborhood watch group by setting up a specific and private Facebook page and email lists. These groups will be monitored and there will be a vetting process for those who want to participate. On the light end of the commitment scale – maybe a half an hour a week – citizens would simply report things they see, when they see them.
Prociw’s confessed to already looking into the possibility of getting dash cams, security cameras and patrol cars, but is taking a measured approach to get the program off the ground. ”If we can prove these neighbors can coordinate and watch out for their neighbors, we can think about stickers and signs in the streets to expand,” he said.
Prociw said there is a potential for longer-term benefits of a neighborhood watch.
”It’s an extra boost to law enforcement during special events like the July 4 celebration,” Prociw said.
”With everything that’s going on that day, the extra eyes and ears are a huge help to law enforcement.”
Community leaders have noted that police coverage supported with watch groups help attract businesses.
”As the city works to close that gap, a strong neighborhood watch can be a potential draw for businesses that might not have considered Creswell otherwise,” Prociw said. ”It will (also) help create a reputation for Creswell overall as a safe community to move to and raise families.”
To get started, simply share your interest with Prociw at [email protected].
You can also take this survey online to help Prociw get an idea of what the community would want from a neighborhood watch group at



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