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City and County Police Work to Facilitate Neighborhood Watch Programs

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There was a time when neighborhood watch programs were really considered the eyes and ears of the street - but police say in this day and age that's changing.

Law enforcement says it's tough keeping people motivated and hard to bridge a generation gap.

Albemarle County police say they started to notice that within the last three years neighborhood watch programs weren't being sustained. What was happening is that people would get fired up during a rash of crimes, but after that they were nowhere to be found.

The county has come up with a new structure that is more user-friendly. Officer Steve Watson, crime prevention specialist with the Albemarle County Police Department, has created community safety groups within the county. It's a fairly new program that has only been in existence for about six months.

What this does is move the focus from crime watching to emergency preparedness. That encourages neighbors to get to know each other based on the needs of the people who live there. For example, in the event of a storm, knowing who has a generator, who has a chainsaw, or where the senior citizens are.

"And then through that the safety shows, it starts to develop because people get to know each other and care for each other,” said Watson. 

"It's trying to make the neighborhoods work together and be prepared for those times when public service can't get to them,” said Jim Crosby of Crozet Safety Corps, a community safety group. 

In terms of the generational divide, police say the problem is that it's often retired people who participate in watch and not young people. Albemarle police hope this new approach will address that as well.

Charlottesville police also say they have experienced the challenge of getting young people involved - but they think that social media culture could be a factor because older people tend to be more comfortable with face-to-face interactions.

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