Block Watch celebrates its successes

Neighbourhood program attempts to put a dint in crime year-round

Bev Darche laughs as she recalls the day she outed a private detective working on her street.

The man had been sitting in his car on Wychbury Avenue in Esquimalt’s West Bay neighbourhood reading a newspaper, an inconspicuous act that in most areas of town would go unnoticed.

But Darche sensed something wasn’t right.

“Every year, we’d have a barbecue in the middle of the street, and I knew all of my neighbours,” says Darche, an Esquimalt native who only recently sold her home of 35 years on the avenue. “If anyone walked in who shouldn’t be there, we wanted to know who they were.”

When police arrived, the detective was shocked to learn he’d just been made by a member of the local Block Watch program.

“The police got a laugh out of that,” she says.

As a Block Watch volunteer for more than 20 years, Darche and hundreds of other residents across Esquimalt and Victoria understand crime prevention is only the first benefit of the program.

“We have three or four neighbour events a year,” says Bruce Cuthbert, Esquimalt Block Watch community co-ordinator. “You know your neighbours better, and if you know your neighbours better, you have a safer community and better neighbourhood.”

The initial one-hour orientation shows residents how they can use crimereports.com to search crimes in their area and set up automatic notifications as new crimes are reported, Cuthbert says.

“It’s also two-way communication so that police inform you as well about what’s going on in your neighbourhood,” he adds.

Since he became involved in Block Watch, Cuthbert has helped grow participation amongst his neighbours on Constance Street from 60 per cent to close to 95 per cent.

“Across the Township, if we are able to double our people involved, it can take a load off the front end for police. If we don’t step up, we can’t keep complaining about budgets going up if we’re not going to be a little bit more helpful on that end,” he says.

Coun. Tim Morrison, who volunteered as a Block Watch captain before being elected to council, says the statistics prove that attentive neighbours can drive down crime by as much as 60 per cent. He’s also seen firsthand the way the program builds community ties.

“Unconnected, uninformed neighbours are a criminal’s best ally,” Morrison says. “By increasing awareness and sharing information with your neighbours, you’re defeating crime.”

To learn more about Block Watch and sign up as a volunteer, visit vicpd.ca/block-watch.