After a more-than-20-year absence, the NYPD is reinstating the Blockwatcher program, which trains civilians from block, tenant and merchant associations how to recognize and report crimes in their neighborhood.
The program, which was discontinued in the 1980s, is not only intended to stop major felonies, but it can help improve the general quality of life in the community, Community Affairs Officer Dion Harris said.
"For the most part, we're walking around safe," Harris said at a recent meeting of Bed-Stuy block associations. "We just want to become safer. We want to improve the qualiy of life in the area. Improve some conditions that make it even more safe."
At an April 10 training session, members of the NYPD's Community Affairs Bureau, as well as officers from the nearby 79th and 81st precincts, will be on hand to teach civilians how to do everything from reporting small issues like cracked sidewalks and piles of trash, to more serious issues like reporting shots fired, Harris said.
Harris recounted a story in which he was working in Fort Greene and heard gunshots. Though he waited for a call about the shots so he could investigate, none came, and officers couldn't follow up on the crime.
Each person who signs up for and attends the meeting, which starts at 6 p.m. at Boys and Girls High School, will receive a Blockwatcher number which they can use to identify themselves to police when reporting crimes.
The Blockwatcher program has made resurgances throughout the community as part of a pilot program by the NYPD, according to reports. Last year, Blockwatcher programs were put in place in the 100th and 112th precincts.
Residents of Bedford-Stuyvesant have argued for the return of the program at community meetings, and Councilman Al Vann, whose 36th Council district encompasses a large swath of the neighborhood, has personally requested the program's reinstatement in the past.
An information sheet handed out to people in attendance outlined the steps needed to apply to be a Blockwatcher, which included an April 1 deadline for the heads of block association to hand in applications.
"We want to have a record turnout, since the blockwatcher program was an important safety tool for our neighbors in the past," the sheet read. "It has taken several years to bring it back to our community, and we want to take full advantage of this resource, as we head into the crucial summer months."
For more information on the Blockwatcher program, contact the Community Affairs office at the 79th Precinct or 81st Precinct.