BANGOR, Maine — A year ago, Lisa Prescott didn’t know her neighbors by name. Now she’s volunteering alongside one of them — in both a community theater play and a neighborhood watch program.
“We bought this house in 2006 and up until last fall, I didn’t even know my neighbors’ names directly across the street,” said Prescott, an Old Town native who lives in a 122-year-old Victorian-style house on Second Street with her husband, David.
That was before an attempted break-in at her residence and a daylight robbery at a house diagonally across the street galvanized the neighborhood last fall.
“And it was already bad before that last summer because we had an apartment house down the road where there were all kind of problems — loud fights and parties, drug-related behavior, BB gun vandalism — going on at all hours,” Prescott said. “So we started talking with neighbors and looking online to find out about a neighborhood watch program.”
And thus the West Side Watch was born.
“When we first started this, it really wasn’t to the degree it is now,” Prescott said. “We had 10 people come over to the meeting we had at our house. And everything we heard or read suggested involving the police, so we did.”
Now they have a solid group of 20 members representing residents of Second, Third, Sanford and Warren streets.
This is the second neighborhood watch program in Bangor, according to Jason McAmbley, community relations officer for Bangor police. The first one, Streamside Community, is a smaller program that started up about a year and a half ago off Finson Road.
Prescott’s group isn’t some kind of amateur security force. The West Side Watch doesn’t have whistles, T-shirts or patrol schedules.
McAmbley, who has been the watch groups’ Bangor police liaison, has been able to use department money to buy signs for the group to install along neighborhood streets.
The Bangor Police Department has been quite pleased with the job the watch groups have done and the effect they’ve had on their neighborhoods.
“Really, they’ve done a fantastic job,” said McAmbley. “The thing that sticks out to me is before this, they just kind of were courteous and said ‘hi’ to their neighbors. Now they know the names of their kids, where they work. They’ve literally gotten to know their neighbors on a personal level, and that to me is great.”
Prescott agreed, adding that the formation of the watch group also has helped residents know what may or may not constitute suspicious activity.
“We just went to England for vacation, and our neighbors know what our daughter drives for a car, so if her car was in our yard, it wouldn’t have been anything to worry about,” Prescott said. “And knowing our neighbors were watching out for us and keeping an eye on things really let us enjoy ourselves and not have to worry about things.”
Prescott lauded Bangor police and Police Chief Ron Gastia for helping organize their watch program and for their help in cutting down on crime.
Police officers talked to the landlord of a problematic apartment building to tell him about certain tenants’ misdeeds. The landlord was not only sympathetic. He went a step further and hired a property manager to better screen and manage tenants.
“Working with the police has really made a difference. There have been more patrols around our neighborhood since we told them about our concerns, and before that we hardly ever saw them drive by,” Prescott said. “We’ve really noticed a big drop in the kinds of incidents that we were putting up with last year. And it’s really brought our entire neighborhood closer together.”
For information on forming a neighborhood watch program, call McCambley at 947-7384, ext. 4228, or email Jason.firstname.lastname@example.org.