One of the most formal community building activities in the city is the police-sponsored Block Watch program. This highly successful crime prevention program encourages people to keep an eye on the street and their neighbour's property, and to report any suspicious activity to 911.
A block is usually organized across the rear lane since most forced entries into buildings occur from the rear. Each Block Watch has a captain and often a co-captain, who undergo a police security check and then receive an identification badge. Block captains usually set up an initial organizing meeting to introduce neighbours to one another. Someone volunteers to draw up a map of the block with names and phone numbers, and to supply copies to the police and other members of the Watch. Police Officers will attend the meeting if requested, to talk about local policing issues and ways of securing your home against theft. They will also provide guides to home security. Police usually advise neighbours to jointly buy an etching pen so that members can mark their valuables with their driver's license number. Members are then given Block Watch stickers for entry points to their homes.
In many cases, introducing Block Watch has led to other community activities, from block cleanups and pet minding to plant swapping. When neighbours get together they find they have more in common than an interest in security.
The Block Parent program is another initiative sponsored by the Police Department. As with Block Watch captains, police run security checks on potential candidates. Block Parents provide a safe haven for children and, occasionally, seniors. When Block Parents are available to answer the door, they post a sign in their window. In an emergency, children who find themselves in trouble can turn to a Block Parent house for assistance.
Potential Block Parents are often concerned that signing-up will mean constant interruption for non-emergencies, such as drinks of water and trips to the bathroom. This does not seem to happen. For the most part, children understand they should turn to these houses only in emergencies.
The Troublemaker's Teaparty is a print version of The Citizen's Handbook published in 2003. It contains all of The Handbook plus additional material on preventing grassroots rot, strategic action, direct action and media advocacy. You can get a copy of The Teaparty from bookstores, Amazon or New Society Publishers.