Recently, I saw a monthly Dallas Police Department crime report for the Preston Hollow area that noted the number of burglaries, motor vehicle thefts and break-ins, and thefts due to unlocked or open garage doors or backyard sheds. While not a large number considering the size of the report area, those numbers represent, for the most part, preventable crimes. If we were more diligent about closing our garage doors, when at home or not, locking all windows and doors of our homes, and parking our cars in our garages, instead of on the driveway or in the street, we could prevent much of this “easy” larceny. The perceived affluence of our neighborhoods and their proximity to well-traveled Dallas thoroughfares make our homes targets for individuals who want to grab and go.

Neighborhood and homeowners’ associations have discovered that one way to decrease crime is to hire Dallas police officers to patrol their streets during the hours that most crimes occur in their neighborhood. These neighborhood patrols are financed by the residents and typically use off-duty Dallas police officers in marked patrol cars, although some neighborhoods hire independent security companies. The problem is that not all of the residents in each neighborhood participate in this proven crime prevention effort, though all residents benefit from the lower crime rate and the indirect bonus a safe neighborhood provides to their property value.

My homeowners’ association saw a 42 percent decrease in crime when it began funding a daily police patrol, yet each year membership in the crime watch campaign hovers at about 50 percent of the residents. And my friends who live in other enclaves of Preston Hollow report similar levels of apathy toward their associations’ patrol efforts. Each association charges different amounts for these efforts based on the number of homes and participants in the program and the number of hours the patrol works. But the $125 required to join in my neighborhood is not onerous by any means for homeowners who can afford to live in Preston Hollow.

The common rationalization for not joining the patrol is that most homeowners have a security system that protects them from a home invasion, so why spend the extra money? But as the police crime report shows, much of the crime committed in our neighborhood is not prevented by a home security alarm. Most homes do not include their garages and outbuildings on their home security system, and these are continually targets for the bicycles, tools, motorcycles, and even cars they contain that are valuable to criminals. And as the crime-rate decrease in my neighborhood proves, merely the presence of Dallas police officers in the neighborhood sends a message to those who think they can poach on property in Preston Hollow. The response time to a call from a member of the crime watch is seconds instead of minutes, because the patrol officer is only blocks away.

The police patrols also provide some security blanket services that can be reassuring to the members. My neighborhood often has the patrol meet her when she is returning home at night with her children asleep in the car and her husband is out of town. With the patrol officer present, she feels safer making multiple trips from the driveway to the house carrying her sleeping children inside. Another neighbor called the patrol to stop by her house when she was unable to reach her husband by phone and was afraid he’d fallen or suffered a heart attack or stroke. Many of my retired neighbors appreciate having the patrol on call since many residents of the neighborhood work and are not home during the day. Our homeowners’ association charges a reduced rate for the patrol so residents on a fixed income can still participate in the program.

Neighborhood block captains and homeowners often volunteer to canvass their blocks and streets to enroll residents in the patrol. Often they are met with indifference, or even hostility. The security patrol benefits everyone who lives in a neighborhood and the more residents who support it, the more hours the patrol can work. So, as Mr. Rogers would say, “Be a good neighbor,” and sign up for your neighborhood’s crime watch program today.

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