Following a series of break ins and other crimes just north of Riverton High School in the month of January, the city and police quickly shut down Riverton residents who were discussing a proposal that would implement a mobile neighborhood watch group.
Mobile neighborhood watch groups are different from traditional neighborhood watch groups in that mobile groups take a more active role in pursuing potential perpetrators.
According to Councilwoman Tricia Tingey, who was approached by some members of the community with this idea, the concept of creating a mobile neighborhood watch is something the city has dealt with before.
“The idea is always there,” she said. “They had seen an increase in crime in their area. We have an absolutely phenomenal neighborhood watch over there, but they just wanted to bump it up. They felt that they wanted to do more. More is fine as a neighborhood watch group, but not as a mobile citizens watch.”
Police Chief Rod Norton said that his department does not support mobile neighborhood watch groups because they often put untrained residents directly in harms way.
“There are too many liabilities for both the citizens and the department,” said Norton. “Effective mobile watches need a considerable amount of training and oversight in terms of knowing how to remain stationary at all times and never engaging suspects. And that’s hard for citizens to do.”
Norton said that traditional neighborhood watch groups tend to be just as successful as mobile neighborhood watch groups—minus the liabilities.
“If neighbors are looking out for each other, that is highly effective,” said Norton. “If they will organize and at least hold the initial meeting and an occasional meeting after that, the city will put neighborhood watch street signs up for them and assist in ongoing coordination of any intelligence about suspects in the area.”
The most important thing residents can do if they see something suspicious?
“Call it in,” said Norton. “A lot of citizens tell us that they don’t want to bother us because they’re not sure if it really is suspicious or not or if they’re overreacting. With so many crimes, the one tip we need to solve the case so many times comes in from a suspicious call. Let us be the ones that do our best to get there and decide if it’s legitimate or not.”
Ultimately, mobile neighborhood watch groups are neither the safest nor most effective option, burdening residents with a job many officers give their lives to do.
“The police are in control,” said Tingey, “and we want to rely on them for that kind of force—not the citizens.”