Membertou First Nation launches neighbourhood watch

Police say the watch is an effort to stop problems before they begin.

Police say the watch is an effort to stop problems before they begin

Connie Osborne, Troy Paul and Sgt. Graham Smith (left to right) hold their newly designed neighbourhood watch sign. (Lara Lewis/CBC)

Membertou First Nation is launching its first neighbourhood watch program.

It's the brainchild of Cape Breton Regional Police Sgt. Graham Smith and Membertou safety co-ordinator Connie Osborne. It will be up and running within a week. 

Smith said the watch is an effort to stop problems before they begin.

Crime prevention

Neighbourhood watch is a crime prevention program that gets citizens involved in discouraging and preventing crime by watching out for their neighbours and their neighbours' property. 

Smith said it's about safety, not about being a vigilante.

"The whole purpose of this is to share information from the perspective of people who know what's normal in the community and things that kind of stand out and don't appear so normal," Smith said.

Break-ins at other reserves

Osborne was spurred into action after hearing about break-ins at other reserves.

As her community grew and prospered, she began to grow concerned about crime caused by visitors. Membertou once had only one street used for entering the reserve, now there are several. 

Osborne tried to form a neighbourhood watch in 2008 developed side-by-side with a Block Parent program.

Unfortunately, Osborne said, the mandatory criminal background checks for volunteers dissuaded many applicants in the original program. 

Excitement for program

There are currently no immediate plans to renew efforts for a Block Parent program, she said. 

Osborne and Smith have been gathering volunteers since February. Now they have a team of eight committed community members.

"A lot of people in the community are excited about it and there's always someone new calling to be on the list," Osborne said. "Since the police have been here I've found a big change in Membertou."