Crimewatch chair tears hair, plans network meeting
July/August 1999

Local neighborhood crime watch groups are alert volunteer citizen activists who observe and report many incidents occurring near their residences to the police. When notified by these volunteers, officers can promptly respond and sometimes apprehend burglars, car thieves, and vandals. This symbiotic relationship between the community and the Gainesville Police Department (GPD) appears on the surface to function smoothly.

Veteran crime watch leaders recognize that their work within their respective neighborhoods and their interactions with GPD often result in feelings of frustration, alienation, and disappointment. Periodically, leaders need to exchange ideas , share stories, and reinforce each other to avoid burn-out.

Stan Pollack, chairman of the Stephen Foster Neighborhood Crime Watch Group, will host a networking session at the Civic Media Center on Tuesday, July 13th at 7 p.m. Pollack hopes to establish an open, on-going dialogue among the sixty-seven crime watch groups in Gainesville. This meeting is open to the public and will last approximately 90 minutes.

"I really want to improve my group and share my successes and frustrating experiences with other chairpersons", Pollack explained. "Especially considering the potential disruptions which might result from Y2K, neighbors need to start meeting and helping their neighbors, sharing valuable information among neighborhoods, and establishing two-way communication with governmental agencies such as GPD".

Pollack has experienced near burn-out on several occasions during the last six years. "Occasionally I feel as though nobody gives a damn. I think maybe people prefer to sit in their air-conditioned living rooms and watch the tube rather than stroll around their neighborhood and meet their neighbors. When incidents occur they hope that the police will magically and swiftly arrest the bad guys."

"It doesn't just happen that way", he added. "Police response time is usually pretty quick, but if no one is caught right away, then forget it. Police follow-up is terrible. Maybe it is the sheer volume of calls, around 300,000 per year."

Pollack said, "I've ridden around in patrol cars and realize how understaffed and busy these officers are most times. There is no way they can follow up on many of the cases." On several occasions, Pollack did some of the follow-up work for GPD, supplied information to GPD detectives and felt frustrated when nothing more was accomplished. "I'm really getting a feel for how the system works, or doesn't work", he said.

Sharing these frustrating experiences with other crime watch chairs may help avoid burncout among these dedicated volunteers, can help educate citizens on efficient ways to work within the system and may force GPD and city officials to be more responsive to the needs of the crime watch groups.

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