Residents of a 650-home Center Grove area neighborhood were prompted by last year’s southside explosion to band together and watch out for each other.
About 20 residents of the Carefree subdivision have met monthly since August to form Carefree Crime Watch, a group with a goal to reduce crime by watching for unfamiliar vehicles and people in the area and educating neighbors about what they can do to prevent robberies and other crimes from happening to them.
The group has an email list of about 200 residents from Carefree North and South and is working to add members from all the homes. Email alerts from the team’s leaders will warn residents about unlicensed peddlers selling door-to-door, a burglary at a neighbor’s house or descriptions of people or cars to look for if a crime has occurred.
The goal would be to get other neighbors paying attention if a crime is happening or has happened, so they can call police quickly if they spot something and also warn the rest of the neighborhood, member Angie Stone said.
Together for a cause
What it is: Carefree Crime Watch, a neighborhood crime watch group for the Carefree neighborhood in the Center Grove area.
What they’re doing: Trying to get neighbors involved in watching their own neighborhood for suspicious activity, such as people walking door to door or coming out of a house when no one is home.
For more information: Contact Angie Stone at 317-691-3650 or attend an informational meeting at 7:30 p.m. July 16 at the Carefree clubhouse, 1202 Leisure Lane.
For example, in an email in May, a resident spotted police cars in the neighborhood and asked for details, and the Carefree Crime Watch let its members know that houses had been broken into on Primrose Court and Lazy and Leisure lanes and asked residents to look out for a dark-colored car.
Burglary suspects are often caught because a neighbor noticed them, and crime watch groups provide residents with training to know what to look for, Sheriff Doug Cox said.
“It’s just extra eyes out there. From my experience, the neighbors are going to catch some of the things going on before we will,” Cox said.
An explosion in 2012 that killed two residents and destroyed dozens of homes in Richmond Hill, a neighborhood on the south side of Indianapolis, motivated the organizers to form a crime watch group, Stone said.
Neighborhoods should watch out for suspicious behavior. In that case, police said the residents of the home that exploded, who are now facing multiple felony charges, moved furniture out of the house before the explosion but didn’t put the house up for sale.
If if it looks like her neighbors are moving, Stone said, she is going to ask them where they’re moving.
“We don’t want something to happen and then start something,” group chairman Jess Carrasquillo said. “We want to be proactive and make our neighborhood a better place before a catastrophe happens.”
Carefree Crime Watch captains are responsible for taking phone calls from residents on the streets where they live and notifying the group’s leaders if, for example, someone is walking door-to-door selling magazines without a peddler’s permit or if they see something suspicious, such as a man running through the neighborhood at 4 a.m. on a June day wearing a sweatshirt, sweatpants and a knit hat, Stone said.
The group does not have people watching the neighborhood in shifts, but when the members are home they try to look for out-of-place vehicles and people, she said.
Stone confronts people walking from house to house in her
neighborhood and asks them what they are doing. If they claim to be selling something, she asks to see their permit. If she sees cars she doesn’t recognize, she writes down license plate numbers, she said.
Sheriff’s deputies meet with crime watch organizations and tell them how to take precautions against crime by, for example, calling the sheriff’s office if they have a bad feeling about a person they see, Cox said.
The Johnson County Sheriff’s Office suggests residents look out for children and teens walking through neighborhoods and looking into windows, backyards and cars, vehicles driving slowly with their lights off, parked cars with one or more people who could be watching houses and people hauling valuables from a house when no is home.
He has heard residents say they saw a crime happening but weren’t sure what was going on and didn’t want to bother the sheriff’s office, Cox said.
“They’re never bothering us because we’re open 24/7/365, just like the convenience stores,” he said.
Talking to a crime watch group allows the sheriff’s office to tell residents that they should always call the police if they’re concerned about suspicious activity, he said.
The sheriff’s office recently made arrests at an underage drinking party because a neighbor had called in to report that teens were walking the neighborhood and throwing eggs at houses. That tip led the officers to the teens and then to the party, he said.
Carefree Crime Watch plans to host a meeting in July to inform more neighbors about what the group is doing, ask for donations to fund the group’s expenses and get more residents involved in helping each other.
The group so far has installed Carefree Crime Watch signs at the seven entrances to the subdivision to let residents know the group exists but also as a warning that the neighborhood is watchful, Stone said. The group also is creating a website and eventually would like to send text message and recorded phone message alerts to the whole neighborhood.
Donations from residents are paying the group’s expenses, including about $400 for the signs. They have raised a total of $700 so far, which also will pay for informational fliers and to cover the costs of the website.