A neighborhood watch group was established on a residential block near Richmond Civic Center Tuesday in an effort to prevent prostitutes from using the strip as passageway to 23rd Street, police said.
Hayes Street between Barrett and Roosevelt avenues in the North & East neighborhood has been a “pretty quiet neighborhood until the last couple of years,” said Michelle Milam, the crime prevention coordinator for the Richmond Police Department.
Prostitutes have been using the street as a route to work, threatening to bring crime and other nuisances to the area, Milam said.
Fed-up residents sought help from Officer John Lopez, who is assigned to the neighborhood. Lopez contacted Milam, who has helped create more than 145 neighborhood watch groups in Richmond since 2007. The city only had 12 before Milam’s tenure.
The strategy behind a neighborhood watch group is to prevent crimes by uniting communities.
“They decide as a neighborhood to meet regularly, organize, report crime, and hold community activities together,” Milam said.
Police advise neighbors on how to form and maintain the citizen-led group, and also train residents on such crime prevention tactics as reporting suspicious activity and dealing with nuisance houses. Once block captains are trained, the neighborhood is provided with window signs announcing that a watch group has been established. The signs alone do a lot to prevent crime in neighborhoods.
“How neighborhood watch groups work best, in my opinion, is when the neighborhood becomes a community,” Milam said.
That’s the aim on Hayes Street. Neighbors are planning a Fourth of July block party so residents can get to know each other. One resident with a front-yard garden wants to bring neighbors together by offering them his vegetables for free and encouraging them to compost.
The idea is that criminals tend to stay away from communities that are tightly knit, as it’s more difficult to get away with crimes when residents are watching out for one another, Milam said.