Greenwood police are encouraging residents to take part in a program that has them looking out for suspicious activity in their neighborhoods.

About two dozen new neighborhood crime watches have been formed over the past several years, Greenwood Police Department spokesperson Kortney Burrello said. About 25 percent of Greenwood neighborhoods have crime watch programs, and the police department would like to see a group formed in every area.

The goal is to ensure that residents are aware of what is happening in their communities and are communicating with police about suspicious or odd situations.

That can be anything from someone who is going door-to-door trying to sell items, seeing lights and activity in a home when a neighbor is on vacation or pointing out a vehicle or person who hasn’t been in the neighborhood before, Burrello said.

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Even minor events, such as a strange vehicle that they haven’t seen before, can be important to report, she said.

“They may not know what they are seeing, but it could be related to a crime, that police are looking for a suspect or suspect’s vehicle,” she said.

The information police get from residents also helps in determining what areas officers may need to patrol or respond to, she said.

Residents often use email lists or websites such as nextdoor.com to communicate, she said.

The only cost to join the crime watch program is purchasing the signs, which a homeowners association can do from an online retailer such as Amazon. The city will install the signs at the correct location near neighborhood entrances free of charge, Burrello said.

For residents interested in forming a crime watch, Burello will help organize a meeting for residents to determine how they will be communicating with each other and who will be responsible for doing so. Residents will volunteer or select someone to be the primary contact with the police department, and other volunteers will keep track of certain parts of the neighborhood.

For one resident of the Reynolds/Longden neighborhood west of Meridian Street north of downtown Greenwood, being part of the neighborhood watch is a way for residents to look after their neighbors. They’ll send out messages when there are reports of crime in or around their neighborhood to a group of leaders who can get that message to residents and take steps to prevent potential burglars from realizing that someone is away from their home for an extended period of time.

“When people are gone in the winter and when they travel, if there is snowfall, we drive a car in their driveway,” Ed Cunningham said.

A crime watch has been in his neighborhood for about two decades, with about two-thirds of the residents participating, he said.

“It has kept people aware of what is happening,” Cunningham said.

Anytime he gets information about a sex offender or crime in the area, he passes that along to other residents.

Linda Gibson, who is a member of the Greenwood City Council, helped form the neighborhood watch in the Holman Heights neighborhood in 1993 after concerns about break-ins in nearby neighborhoods.

Communicating with police and neighbors is important if something doesn’t seem right, she said.

“You never know; something can be innocent, but it can also look strange or out of place,” she said.

Since then, getting information out to her neighbors had gotten much easier with the advent of email and smartphones, she said.

Before, they would go door-to-door to alert other residents about an issue, Gibson said.

At a glance

The Greenwood Police Department is encouraging residents to form neighborhood crime watches.

To get help with setting up a group, residents can contact police officer Kortney Burrello at 317-887-5210.

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Jacob Tellers is a reporter at the Daily Journal. He can be reached at jtellers@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2702.