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Neighborhood watch groups use messaging apps to fight crime

Posted: Jul 18, 2018 3:55 PM Updated:

Troublemakers and crime doers, be warned! Neighborhood Watch programs are popping up all around island. Residents - armed with only their cell phones - are taking safety into their own hands.

Community policing works. Just look at Sinajana. Mayor Robert Hoffman explains residents here have got each other's backs, telling KUAM News, "Documenting what you see. Taking photos. It may be something innocent, but it's always good to have the documentation in case something happens down the road. You never know. It's just us keeping an eye out for each other."

On Monday night, one member of the Sinajana Neighborhood Watch group saw something suspicious. Specifically, kids up to no good - trying to open car doors along Bien Venida Avenue. That watchful neighbor alerted others via their WhatsApp groupchat...some 220-plus members strong.

"In two or three minutes, we basically got coverage and we were able to locate them," the mayor said proudly.  More members chimed in saying they saw the same group of kids running towards the Church. Five male minors were caught. The kids are ages 12 to 17 years old, each taken into custody for criminal mischief, graffiti, criminal facilitation and conspiracy.

Unfortunately, the mayor reports most of them are from the village.

"They were vandalizing. They vandalized several homes, vehicles, and the bus stop and the church and our community center. To them, they said they were just bored," he stated. "As the police were coming, they admitted to doing the crime. And some of the people within our neighborhood watch group that do have videos at their house were able to produce videos and photos of them doing the act, so it kind of also helps us out also in prosecution."

Hoffman says the group is currently exploring grants to possibly compensate families and businesses who've invested in surveillance cameras.

They've added so much value to their Neighborhood Watch Group. "We also ask families that have cameras to dedicate one camera to street view and also that helps us keep an eye on the neighborhood. We had a great response from them," he said.

While Sinajana's model works for them, Hoffman recognizes other villages have different landscapes. "For other villages we encourage them to get their neighbors, get to their streets and do it that way, and they can just do it internally. They don't need an overall main organization. But as long as they kind of commit to watching what's in front, behind, and on each side of them, it helps. And we're just blessed to have great neighbors," he suggested.

"It does work and we're very grateful to GPD for giving us the guidance for this and its really. It's really grown."

Call your mayor for details on how to get involved in your village's Neighborhood Watch Program.

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