Neighborhood watch programs have been in the news almost every day with the Zimmerman trial. They aren't rare, in fact there are several operating right here in our area.
Onalaska has had a neighborhood watch program since 2010. It was started by residents and is a valuable tool for police who can't be everywhere at once. But their program is not a one-person security patrol like we saw in Sanford. Here it's more about community.
"The watch program helps to congeal neighborhoods together," says Officer Berry Holm of the Onalaska Police Department. The relatively new neighborhood watch program in Onalaska has been a valuable tool for the police.
"Neighbors know their neighborhoods," says Holm "we're in and out of them periodically but they know what should be there and what shouldn't be there and it's extra sets of eyes for us on the road."
The program started just three years ago after a series of car break-ins. From the beginning it's never been about a lone-person patrolling the streets. "We don't want people out, walking around looking for trouble," says Holm, "they are basically just the eyes and ears for us so that we can come out and take care of the problem, so we don't run into those types of issues."
Cindy Freybler has lived in this neighborhood for five years. She says it's comforting to know that her neighbors are looking out for her family.
"It's safe for our children," says Freybler, "we have a lot of retired people in the neighborhood, and it's nice to have those people here when people like myself are working and they keep a close eye on daytime activities."
It's the type of program the police department can point to when they talk about building a community.
"Anytime that you can get neighbors that are together watching out for each other, I'd call that a success," Holm said.
The Onalaska Police Department doesn't keep specific stats about which calls were made from neighborhood watch members. The department does meet with block captains twice a year to check in and get a status about their neighborhoods.