Jon O’Farrell and Tara Dobby are neighbours who helped organize the local Block Watch for their Langley City neighbourhood. (Matthew Claxton/Langley Advance)

Block Watch helped clean up crime in Langley neighbourhood

From a major issue, crime has declined substantially on one City street.

There’s a blank spot in crime maps of Langley City.

A local Block Watch group has successfully driven down the rate of local property crime to near-zero levels over the last three years.

But that success began because the neighbourhood had a very rough patch that forced them to take action, say local Block Watch organizers.

“We had a problem house in our neighbourhood,” said Jon O’Farrell.

The area, off 203rd Street south of the Nicomekl River, is a quiet loop of streets with about two dozen homes.

But three years ago, an elderly resident took in some new tenants. O’Farrell and his neighbour Tara Dobby believe the resident was being taken advantage of.

Soon, crime rates began to rise.

A problem house is an area that is a focus for theft, drug use and dealing, or other crime. Often numerous people come and leave at all hours, and they may commit crimes of opportunity in the area.

“There was a lot of theft in the neighbourhood,” said O’Farrell.

“Auto theft, theft from autos,” said Dobby.

Within three months, people were getting alarmed.

“We didn’t even let our kids play outside anymore,” said O’Farrell.

The duo helped form a local Block Watch group and received help and training from the Langley RCMP.

Local residents met with the Langley City mayor and council, with senior RCMP officers and with local officers.

“Just basically not giving up,” said Dobby.

“Block Watch opened our eyes to how the police department runs,” said O’Farrell. “How they direct their resources, into what areas.”

What they learned is that the squeaky wheel gets the grease.

If one person calls about a suspicious person, that may not get much police response, Dobby noted.

If numerous people call about a suspicious person, if every break in, theft, and incident of vandalism is reported, the area becomes a focus for the police.

Many small crimes and incidents are never reported to police. That means the police can miss out on which areas are actually seeing spikes in property crime.

“The police really have to be informed,” said O’Farrell. “If you don’t report it, you’re basically messing it all up.”

Dobby note that police can put together better information from reports. A call about a person seen running through back yards can be linked to a local break in or other crime.

“We became the most-reported area in the Langleys,” said O’Farrell.

“That’s because of our members,” said Dobby.

Pretty doon, Dobby said there was a noticable police presence in the area.

The problem house became a focus for the police – they even parked a police cruise in front of it for a while.

The police pressure and help from relatives of the problem house’s owner eventually helped end the key concern, though it took a little over a year.

The problematic individuals were evicted – O’Farrell noted one man was found in the home’s back shed with a machete – and four to five containers of garbage were removed from the building.

The home now has new tenants.

The local Block Watch has kept up its efforts through the years that followed. They still keep in touch through email and in person.

“It brings us together as a community,” said Dobby.

Locals watch out for one another and let their neighbours know when they’re going on holidays, or if a garage door has been left open and unattended.

To learn more or create a Block Watch in Langley, email florence.fowler@rcmp-grc.gc.ca.

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