Eyes and ears: Police encourage residents to create neighborhood watches

HARLINGEN — Police are in charge of reducing crime, but having a little extra help from others doesn’t hurt.

Neighborhood watches are able to become that extra help that authorities need.

A neighborhood watch is a team that watches out for crime in the neighborhood, while maintaining a relationship with authorities and letting them know when unusual activity is present.

The Harlingen Police Department already has a few neighborhood watch teams set up. But it is encouraging other neighborhoods to begin a team and make it a habit of taking care of their neighbors and guarding their safety.

“The point of a neighborhood watch is to unite the community and increase the communication between the neighborhood and the police department,” police Sgt. Michael Brooks said.

“This improves crime reporting and increases the surveillance in the community. But it does not mean that you should take matters into your own hands. It is about letting us know when something suspicious is happening and also, getting to know your neighbors and surroundings,” he said.

Lenore Combs and her husband John Combs are among the few individuals in Harlingen leading their own neighborhood watch.

The couple arrived in Sunshine Country Club Estates in 2005 and established the neighborhood watch in 2008. Today, they wear orange neon vests as they patrol their community in a distinctive golf cart.

“If there is an emergency, we hold down the fort until professional help arrives,” Lenore, neighborhood watch coordinator, said.

“Primarily, our job is to do patrols. We have a patrol calendar and we have two people go out and patrol in the golf cart every night and in the winter we have two, one at 8:30 p.m. and another at 10:30 p.m.,” she said.

The team currently has 50 members, and two switch every day to patrol the neighborhood.

Lenore stressed the importance of creating a serial number on household items that could get stolen, having neighbors’ phone numbers visible in case of an emergency and having special vehicle decals to acknowledge residents.

“One of the benefits of this is establishing a working relationship with the police department and number two, that you can rely on them to teach you safety tips on crime prevention and scams,” Lenore said.

“I don’t know why somebody would not have a neighborhood watch. We are all watching out for each other,” she said.


How to set up a neighborhood watch

• Contact the police department and set up a meeting.

• Designate a block coordinator for the neighborhood.

• Discuss with the police department what a neighborhood watch is — and what it is not.

• Create a partnership with the police department and maintain it while guarding the neighborhood.

• Organize citizens, identify the problems and develop strategies.