What is Block Watch?
Block Watch is a community-driven program which brings neighbours together through increased communication between themselves and the police. Block Watches have two significant commitments:
- To be concerned about your neighbours' property as you would your own
- To report suspicious activity to the police and your neighbours
What are the benefits of having a Block Watch in my neighbourhood?
When your Block Watch is up and running and signs are installed, crime rates drop significantly. Also, depending who your home insurance provider is, you may be eligible for a reduction up to a maximum of 15 percent. This reduction applies regardless of whether you are a Block Captain or Participant. Block Watches create a sense of community because you begin to know your neighbours as real people, not just the person who lives down the road. It also creates better communication between your neighbours and the police.
What does it cost?
The Block Watch Society of BC produces the signs and each sign costs approximately $30. It is the responsibility of the Block Watch participants to pay for each sign required for their area. The City of Nanaimo covers the installation cost of each sign on City property. If the Block Watch is a Strata, the cost of the installation is the responsibility of the Strata management.
Who can start up a Block Watch?
Like any group, there needs to be a leader, someone willing to step up and take the time to get it organized. The leaders or organizers are referred to as Block Watch Captains. It's no fun working alone and to keep a project moving forward there should be others involved. They are called Co-Captains. If the Captain goes on vacation or takes sick or moves, the Co-Captain can take over.
Block Captains and Co-Captains need to successfully complete a criminal record check. This form can be picked up at the front counter of the Nanaimo RCMP Detachment. The front counter is open Monday to Friday, 8:30 AM to 5 PM, Monday to Friday. You must have 2 pieces of approved government issued ID (BC DL, BC ID, passport, etc.) and there is no charge for this procedure.
What is the next step in setting up a Block?
When you have successfully completed your criminal record check, you will be issued with a Block Watch ID tag which is required before you start knocking on doors. The ID tag is issued by the Community Policing Co-coordinator. When you have received it, you will be briefed on what to expect and some commonly asked questions. You will also be given signup sheets and information brochures to hand out to the participants.
The best times to find people at home are after dinnertime and on weekends. It is also useful to take a clipboard with you so that the information you obtain is written legibly. The information you will be asking participants to provide is their name, address, contact phone number (preferably a cell number) and their email address. This information is entirely voluntary. Once it is obtained, the Block Captain will keep a copy for themselves and forward a copy to the Nanaimo RMCP Block Watch coordinator.
How many neighbours do I need to sign up?
You need at least 75 percent participation before the RCMP will allow you to move forward. This is necessary to ensure your Block will be successful.
Do we need to hold regular meetings after we are set up and do they have to be at my house?
To maintain an active Block Watch status, there must be at least one meeting per year. The meeting can be held at a home or even in a backyard, or local community hall or school. The frequency of these meetings is entirely up to you.
If I’m the Block Captain, am I responsible for the safety of my neighbours' homes?
The safety of your home and that of your neighbours is everyone’s responsibility. You are not expected to be an expert on safety or crime prevention - you are simply the leader and the go-between for your Block and the police.
When going door to door, what do I do if I am bombarded with questions?
When going door to door, you are simply asking your neighbours if they are interested in starting a Block Watch. You MUST have your ID tag visible when doing this0. The brochures you hand out will address most questions but if there is something you don’t know, just tell them you will find out and get back to them. Captains should create an email distribution list with all participants’ email addresses in order to disseminate future information. Don’t use your personal email. An example of an email is: MainStblockwatch@gmail.com or Hotmail.com. To respect privacy, remember to always blind carbon copy recipients when emailing anything.
There are several “problem houses” in our area; do I need to include them?
No, you don't. It is worth noting though that renters are more than welcome, especially if they are long term.
How big does my Block Watch have to be?
There are over 100 active Block Watches in Nanaimo. Some are situated on a cul-de-sac, while others involve 5-6 large interconnecting streets and over 140 homes. It really depends on the size of your “community” and how much interaction exists in your neighbourhood.
I live on strata property. Can I have a Block Watch?
There are several active Block Watches on strata properties. The only difference is that the Strata management is responsible for the installation and cost associated with installing signs.
I live in an apartment building. Can I start a Block Watch?
Block Watches work condos, mobile trailer parks and apartment buildings, as well as residential areas.
If one of the homes in our Block Watch is broken into, should they call the Block Captain first?
No, they should always call the Nanaimo RCMP first. If the crime is in progress or is potentially a life threatening situation, call 911 immediately. For all other police incidents, call the non-emergency line at 250-754-2345.
I see “Neighbourhood Watch” signs up on my street. Does that mean there is a Block Watch program already in place?
Neighbourhood Watch has not existed for many years and was replaced by Block Watch. If a Block Watch is created in a neighbourhood where a “Neighbourhood Watch” sign exists, the Block Watch sign may simply replace the existing sign.
How do I get started?
If you want to get started or to find out more about Block Watch, contact the Community Policing Unit of the Nanaimo RCMP at 250-755-3257 or 250-755-3163. You can also email Constable Gary O'Brien at firstname.lastname@example.org.