For students living in the Trinity Park neighborhood off East Campus, some of the best resources for crime prevention are literally right next door.
Trinity Park residents revitalized their long-dormant Neighborhood Watch program last February and are now looking to increase participation, especially among students. In the past, students have responded to the program with a degree of apathy, said Kathy Friedl, a member of the Trinity Park Crime Prevention Committee.
"A lot of students know that they're only going to live here one year, so they're wondering why they should bother getting involved in a neighborhood where they don't really have a vested interest," Friedl said. "What we're trying to do is communicate the benefits to students as far as being part of the community."
One way the neighborhood association has tried to promote the Neighborhood Watch is by hosting a series of block sessions with Eric Hester, crime prevention officer for District 2 of the Durham Police Department. By attending the sessions, residents not only learn about basic safety precautions, but also help their blocks qualify for newly designed Neighborhood Watch signs. The City of Durham requires that half the residents of a block attend a session in order for the block to obtain a sign.
Senior Kate Hackett, who lives in an apartment building on Monmouth Avenue, said it is difficult for students to engage themselves in the off-campus community.
"Ideally I would be involved in [the Neighborhood Watch program], but I feel like there's definitely tension between the college residents of the neighborhood and the permanent residents," Hackett said. She also noted that for many students living off campus--herself included--the demands of senior year make participation in the Neighborhood Watch very difficult.
"Our minds as college students are focused on other things than on the neighborhood we're living in just temporarily," Hackett said. "I would have loved to have gone to one of the block sessions, but right now I have a lot going on in terms of what I'm going to be doing next year after graduation."
Friedl said she understood students' concerns about time conflicts and mentioned the possibility of scheduling a session with Hester just for students. She also noted that students have another opportunity to attend one of the originally scheduled block sessions this Thursday at 7 p.m. at George Watts Elementary School on Watts Street.
"Ultimately we would like to build a sense of community between students and permanent residents, but if we have to start by singling out the student population, then that's okay," Friedl said. "What's really important is that we get students involved in the first place."
Although exact figures will not be available until next week, both Friedl and Hester said they were pleased that student attendance at the block sessions had improved somewhat from past years. Friedl said she spotted several students at the second block session, and two even offered to become block captains for the program.
Senior Loree Lipstein, who lives in an apartment on Buchanan Boulevard, was among those in attendance.
"I got the feeling it was the first time students had been to one of their meetings at all because they were all really happy to see us," Lipstein said. "If they can include us in the Neighborhood Watch in the right way, then I think students will definitely be interested in participating.
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Residents revitalized the Neighborhood Watch program last winter after a sexual assault in the area spurred a neighborhood-wide discussion of safety concerns. Since then, active participation in the program has increased dramatically, Friedl said.
"The results have been incredible," said Hester, adding that the program has helped solve a number of burglaries in Trinity Park. "In most neighborhoods, people have a tendency not to pick up on issues that could be warning signs. A watch raises people's awareness and keeps them focused on those types of things, which makes it safer for all of us."