Neighborhood watch groups say they're taking their streets back

SEATTLE - Property crime is on the rise around Western Washington. Law enforcement agencies are doing what they can to stop the trend. But now homeowners are taking a more pro-active approach to their own safety.

People in the North Seattle neighborhood of Whittier Heights say they’re fed up with the crime they’ve been seeing recently.

“I saw a strong armed robbery right in front of us, and it was pretty violent,” says Brad Renton. “The next day, I was approached by a drug dealer when I was walking down by Ballard High School.”
Gina Frank has been the victim of a home burglary and multiple car break-ins. That’s one of the reasons she joined the Whittier Heights Involved Neighbors (WHIN) group.

“We’re not out to confront anybody or anything like that,” she says. “We just want to keep an eye on things and try to make our neighborhood safer.”

A couple times a week, Renton, Frank and their neighbors walk the streets.

“At the very least, we get some exercise, meet neighbors, and get to build community,” says Frank. “And the best case scenario is we deter some crimes.”

The particular group has only been meeting since November. But they say they already feel like they’re making a difference in their community.

“We used to see a lot of drug dealing and that kind of thing,” says Tyler Cluverius. “I’m sort of seeing that drop off a little bit.”

New members are joining the group every week.

“It can get the word out that our community is doing things, being active, and trying to make sure we're on the right path,” says Thomas Wickerfetzer.

These neighbors know they can’t stop all crime by themselves. In fact, when they do see something illegal, they call police and let them handle it. But they say this is one way to start reclaiming their neighborhood from vandals and petty criminals.

“it's inspiring to see how many people in the neighborhood care and want to be involved in any way they can,” says Frank. “I’m really happy about how it's going.”

To see if there’s an active neighborhood watch group where you live, contact your local police department. They have the resources to help you start one, if there’s not.