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?
Each sign costs approximately $45 dollars. The cost of having the signs installed is covered by the City of Nanaimo and it is their commitment to the program.
Who can start up a Block Watch?
Like any group, there needs to be a leader, someone willing to step up and take the initiative to see an idea through to fruition. In a Block Watch, they are called Block Watch Captains. It's no fun working alone and to keep a project moving forward there should be others involved. We call them Co-Captains. If the Captain goes on vacation or gets sick or moves, the Co-Captain can take over.
Block Captains and Co-Captains need to complete a criminal record check. It can be completed at the Nanaimo RCMP Detachment (no charge). Just come to front counter from Monday to Friday, 8 am to 8 pm, with two pieces of approved Gov't ID (BC driver's license, BC ID, Social Insurance Number card, Canadian passport, etc.). Once you have completed your criminal record check, you will be contacted by the Nanaimo RCMP Block Watch Co-ordinator with program details.
How much time does it take to set up a Block Watch?
It usually takes between 3-4 hours. After completing your criminal record check, you and your Co-Captain will meet with the Block Watch Co-ordinator to go over program details, expectations and responsibilities. You will then be provided with participation/sign up sheets and an RCMP volunteer ID tag identifying you as a Block Watch Captain. Going door to door and discussing the idea with your neighbours can be time consuming but in large part, most Captains say it's worthwhile and fun!
Do we need to hold meetings and does it have to be at my house?
To be considered an active Block Watch, you need to hold at least one meeting a year. It can be at your house, a neighbour's, or a community hall. Your Block Watch Co-ordinator will assist you with this. Most Block Watches hold one meeting each quarter. The number is entirely up to you. Some like to have meetings in the summer and plan a neighbourhood BBQ around it.
If I'm the Block Captain, does it make me responsible for the safety of my neighbours homes?
The safety of your home and that of your neighbours is everyone's responsibility. If there is something of concern in your neighbourhood, it should be reported to you. In turn, you should distribute it by email, phone, door to door, etc. to all the participants. If you feel the police should know too, then forward it to your Block Watch Co-ordinator.
What do I do when I go door to door, what if I get bombarded with questions?
When going door to door, you are simply asking your neighbours if they are interested in starting a Block Watch. You will have your ID on and will have brochures to give them. You will also have met previously with the Block Watch Co-ordinator and most of any questions you might be asked will be brought up during this training session. When at the door you will have a sign up sheet in which they will be asked to provide their name, address, phone numbers and email address. It is entirely voluntary and it is confidential, therefore the reason for you to have completed a criminal record check and to be wearing your RCMP volunteer ID tag. Also, if there are any questions you cannot answer, just have them call the Block Watch Co-ordinator the next day.
What do I do with the information I gather?
You keep a copy and give the Block Watch Co-ordinator a copy. You should also need to print off a property lot map from the City of Nanaimo website. This will show the houses in your neighbourhood that are in the Block.
There are several “problem houses” in our area, do I need to include them?
No, you don't. Also, renters are more than welcome especially if they are long term.
How big does my Block Watch have to be?
There are over 60 active Block Watches in Nanaimo and surrounding areas. There is no maximum size but Blocks should try to stay under 100 homes and must have at least 5 homes signed up to be eligible for a reduction in your home insurance. Some Blocks are situated on a cul de sac, while others involve 5-6 large interconnecting streets. It really depends on the size of your “community” and how much interaction there exists with your neighbours.
I live on strata property. Can I have a Block Watch?
There are several active Block Watches that are on strata properties. The only difference is you are responsible for the installation and cost associated with putting signs up.
I live in an apartment building. Can I start a Block Watch?
In short, yes. Block Watches work, not only in residential areas but for condos, mobile trailer parks, apartment buildings.
How do I communicate Block Watch information with my neighbours?
Most homes have computers, and email is the preferred means of communication. Some, however, do not. You will have to call them or go door to door to make sure they receive the information too.
If one of the homes in our Block Watch is broken into, should they call the Block Captain first?
No, they should call the Nanaimo RCMP and depending on the circumstances of the incident, they should call the non-emergency line at 250-754-2345 or 911. Block Captains should only be contacted after the police have been notified.
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 will replace the existing sign.
How do I get started?
If you want to get started or find out more about Block Watch, contact Constable Gary O'Brien at 250-755-3257 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.