As crime is on the rise in some neighborhoods, a local non-profit hopes to train residents with the tools and techniques to deter crime.
The Citizens Crime Watch of Miami-Dade serves as a bridge between the community and law enforcement. A rape aggression defense course is one of several programs run by the non-profit aimed at teaching people how combat crime.
"Nobody knows the neighborhood better than the neighbors themselves," said Rebeca Rivera, a coordinator with Citizens Crime Watch of Miami-Dade.
There are hundreds of neighborhood crime watch groups across the county, but Rivera says some areas with violent crime don't have a group at all.
"Some of them the neighbors do not have the time, they feel it is too time consuming. Others the neighbors are scared to do a crime watch because of their neighborhood and things that happen in the neighborhood. They're scared of retaliation or they're scared of people seeing them talk to the police," said Rivera.
Fernanda Katz Junkins has been the crime watch chairperson for her Kendall neighborhood for nearly 20 years. She's established a network of involved neighbors who have become the eyes and ears of police, calling officers at the first hint of suspicious activity.
"If you want safety in your communities, your families, your children, your home, have crime watch. I strongly promote it because it is proven that in my community it works," said Katz Junkins.
Although there are many apps where people can post real-time alerts, each neighborhood watch chairperson establishes their own email and phone chain. It is hyper local with only people on that block in that chain.
"A lot of times those apps are great for communication and it helps to get information out, but many times people aren't paying attention because people post they lost their dog or they have a garage sale," said Rivera.
Katz Junkins says the phone chain is more effective than the online apps because when residents get an alert from her they know there is currently criminal activity happening on their block and everyone can take action immediately.
To establish an official neighborhood crime watch 30% to 40% of the residents on the block must participate. Meetings are held, at minimum, once a year.
At the meetings, officers share crime stats and the crime watch group teaches members techniques to reduce the risk of being victimized.
“We’ve had neighborhoods where they have a crime watch and a crime occurred, the chairperson notified their crime watchers and because they activated their phone chain somebody saw the criminal, called it in and that person was apprehended,” said Rivera.
If you'd like to set up a neighborhood watch in your area you can call 305-470-1670 for more guidance.