The Northeast Bronx Association is hoping to keep the community safe and decrease quality-of-life crimes by assisting the 49th Precinct through the revitalization of their Block Watch program.
Years ago, the NEBA had a very active block watch program in conjunction with the civilian patrol unit. Block watchers were active residents of the community asked to report to 911 if they noticed any suspicious activity during their daily activities.
The program’s participants used cell phones, given to participants, that only had the capability to call 911.
In addition, participants were registered with the 49th Precinct and given identification numbers to remain anonymous.
“At the time the way it worked if you were given a cell phone that you would push just one button and it went directly to 911,” said Vinny Prezioso, president of the NEBA. “If you saw a crime in progress you would just give your block watch number and the police would know the information you gave was valid, and this worked no matter where in the New York City you were.”
Over time the program dissolved, but now realizing the valuable information gathered, the NEBA has begun an effort to rejuvenate the program.
“A block watch is the eyes and ears of a community,” said Captain John Greeley of the 49th Precinct. “No one knows an area better than the people living in their own community. Begin able to get the cooperation of the residents is going to help us out a lot as far as steering in the right direction. It’s really a very strong community, the whole precinct is.”
According to Greeley, the New York Police Department is still in the works of establishing ID cards for participants.
Cell phone companies no longer offer the service, through which the NEBA would turn in old cell phones in exchange for ones that were used to phone 911, but Senator Jeff Klein is hoping to come to an agreement with Verizon to return the useful service.
“We are working on all kinds of ends to this, but it seems to be coming to a conclusion pretty rapidly,” said Prezioso. “Right now we are getting a good response from the police and Jeff is trying to get us the phones. In the meanwhile, we are signing people up and beginning to train them.”