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Meeting the 'Joneses': The easy way to make your neighborhood safer

August 1, 2008

SEATTLE – Forget "keeping up with the Joneses." Simply meeting your neighbors can improve neighborhood safety. According to the latest PEMCO Insurance poll, ramping up neighborhood safety is as easy as meeting the people next door, but very few Washingtonians report taking action to reduce the likelihood of crime in their area.

PEMCO Insurance's Northwest Poll reports that 57 percent of respondents share concern for their neighborhood's safety, but a mere 8 percent of those surveyed report participating in a neighborhood block watch.

Despite the relatively low statewide participation, the Seattle Police Department reports that block watches work to help deter thieves from committing random acts of residential burglary.

In fact, Terrie Johnston, crime prevention coordinator for the Seattle Police Department's West Precinct, estimates that neighborhoods experience a 60 percent decrease in crime when there is an active, organized block watch effort between neighborhood businesses, residents, and local law enforcement.

"Neighborhood block watches are a great way to unify what many individual households are likely doing on their own," said Jon Osterberg, PEMCO spokesperson. "The first step to making your neighborhood a safer place can be as easy as getting to know your neighbors and letting them know when you're going out of town."

To help encourage neighborly interaction, thousands of communities across the country simultaneously participate in annual "Night Out Against Crime" events, taking place this year on Tuesday, Aug. 5. The events put on by individual communities are part of a larger national effort to bring neighbors together through block parties, ice cream socials, and barbeques.

On Aug. 5 PEMCO will support the Cascade Block Party, its neighborhood's Night Out event, taking place from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Cascade People's Center located at 309 Pontius Avenue North in Seattle.

"The whole principle behind 'Night Out' is to help community members build an open line of communication where neighbors feel comfortable reporting suspicious activity to local law enforcement," said Benjamin Kinlow, a Seattle Police Department crime prevention coordinator.

PEMCO's poll indicates that two out of three respondents said that their neighborhood lacks a block watch program. For neighborhoods without an existing program, the Seattle Police Department Crime Prevention team offers the following, easy tips for creating an effective block watch:

  • Bring together willing participants.
  • Agree on a simple plan of action and goals for the block watch.
  • Determine participants' roles and responsibilities.
  • Develop a working e-mail distribution, phone tree, and neighborhood map.
  • Take action – report suspicious activity and changes in surrounding environment to local law enforcement.

The Seattle Police block watch program started in 1972 as a way to deter residential burglary but has since evolved into a full-fledged crime prevention effort, says Johnston. Nowadays, block watches are formed to help care for elderly neighbors, look out for domestic abuse, and much more.

For more information about how you can establish a successful block watch in your neighborhood, visit the crime prevention section of your local police department's Web site.

About the PEMCO Insurance Northwest Poll
PEMCO Insurance commissioned this independent, statewide survey that asked Washington drivers several questions about cell-phone use and home-safety issues. The sample size, 621 respondents, yields an accuracy of +/- 4 percent at the 95 percent confidence level. In other words, if this study was conducted 100 times, in 95 instances the data will not vary by more than +/- 4 percent.

About PEMCO Insurance

PEMCO Insurance, established in 1949, is a Seattle-based provider of auto, home, boat, life, and umbrella insurance to Washington state residents. PEMCO Insurance is sold by community agents throughout the state and through PEMCO offices. For more information, visit www.pemco.com.

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