BANGOR, Maine — Neighborhood watch groups in Bangor have been a success, according to those who attended Neighborhood Night Out in Second Street Park on Tuesday.
The groups are also growing.
“I think it’s awesome,” said Bangor police Sgt. Paul Edwards during the event that brought a few hundred to the park. “It’s spreading the good word that the neighborhood watch worked and it helps [combat crime].”
The event coincided with the National Night Out, an annual event that encourages neighborhoods to engage in stronger relationships with each other and law enforcement to heighten crime and drug prevention and foster neighborhood spirit and solidarity.
Kids and adults gathered in the park to socialize, see Bangor’s bomb robot, have faces painted or eat popcorn, flavored ice and cotton candy provided by Target.
The West Side and East Side neighborhood watch groups had tables to inform people about what they do.
“It’s been pretty successful. It’s built relationships, not only with police, but also with the city as well,” said Steve Hicks, a Sanford Street resident and part of the West Side Watch.
The West Side Watch was formed two years ago and Edwards said there has been quite a difference made in that time.
“I can tell you we’re not coming up to this area very much anymore,” he said. “It seems like the calls have dropped dramatically. I’ve talked to a couple of neighbors and who said the same. They believe the call volume has very much shifted since the neighborhood watch has been here.”
The East Side Watch turns a year old this month. Al Banfield joined the group after someone broke into his garage and a vandal did $800 in damage inside.
Pauline Civiello of Coombs Street was motivated to help form the East Side Watch after her visiting 6-year-old grandson picked up a syringe in her driveway.
“I felt really distressed about that,” she said.
After last year’s inaugural Neighborhood Night Out, about 65 people from the east side were invited to a west side meeting. Soon after, the East Side Watch was formed.
Members keep in touch through emails and meetings. Civiello said it’s been a good way to get to know neighbors.
“I didn’t know many people on our street. My husband and I had been there for close to 30 years,” she said. “Now that our children are all grown up, we don’t get to mingle as much. With having the neighborhood watch, we know who’s in nearly every single house now.”
Sanford Street resident Tina McDonald attended Tuesday’s event and signed up for the West Side Watch.
“I think it’s a good idea. Neighbors looking out for neighbors,” she said, adding that she’s seen a noticeable difference in crime in the area the last two years. “We want our neighborhoods back.”
“Neighborhoods need to become neighborhoods again like it used to be where everybody knows each other and the kids play together,” said Tonda Wilson, who grew up on Sanford Street. “It’s nice to see people come out and want to look out for their neighborhood.”
Edwards said the neighborhood watches make a difference.
“It’s our ears and eyes. They’re so good at reporting crime,” said the sergeant. “They’re not going to stand by idly and let things happen in front of them. Now they’re part of a group that we trust. We know who we’re dealing with. If they can call us and we respond, then they’ll keep [calling police].”
Other neighborhood watches are encouraged to start, said Edwards. Those interested should contact police to get started.