‘We’ll Learn Who We Are’

Residents in the area surrounding Crown Hill Elementary this month told the county commissioners they’re banding together to thwart crime and promote camaraderie.

In a story in Tuesday’s Kitsap Sun, I interviewed many of the neighbors, who say they’re scared for their personal safety, and about what goes on in their neighborhood.

They’re planning block watch groups, block parties, and anything that ultimately helps them to get to know one another — so they know who’s who and can call police when something appears out of the ordinary.

Have you ever pondered a block watch program in your neighborhood?

(Note: pictured is patrol officer and former Bremerton Police community resource officer Karen Pierson, who’s helped many residents in the city of Bremerton start their own block watch groups.)

I actually did a story in March 2006 about problems inside Bremerton’s city limits that led to residents to form block watch groups. I’ve pasted it below. Feel free to leave a comment behind of your own experiences with block watch.

BREMERTON — With boarded-up windows, graffiti tags and garbage-strewn lawns, Bremerton’s perpetual drug houses are, by and large, easy to spot.

As quickly as one is condemned or busted by the cops, another springs up amid the rolling hills of the city’s neighborhoods.

“One closes down,” said Bremerton resident Bobbi Campbell, “and another pops back up.”

The houses are often occupied by dealers and users of various drugs, such as methamphetamine, and can expose nearby residents to all kinds of criminal activity.

Campbell knows them well. Particularly, a house right down the street from her Ninth Street and Warren Avenue residence, which, as she says, “popped up.”

Fortunately, she knew what it would take to close it down: a neighborhood watch group.

City citizens are fighting the stigma of having the state’s highest per capita violent crime rate — about 11 incidents of robbery, rape, assault and murder per thousand residents in 2004. They are discovering ways to force out the perpetrators, many of whom pass through the city’s drug houses.

For Campbell and her Neighbors, it was a matter of paying attention and being proactive.

In February 2005, she began to notice signs of drug activity at the nearby house: Lots of people coming and going. Barefoot children who seemed to roam free. Erratic driving by those who lived there.

The crimes began escalating in severity, she said. Windshields were broken. Fights were heard. Burglaries started happening.

But Campbell and her block weren’t content to let their neighborhood deteriorate. They called Bremerton police and organized a neighborhood watch program in August. The police, who encourage block watch groups but don’t require them when a known drug house surfaces, helped put together community meetings.

Together, Neighbors tracked the home’s activity, wrote down license plates and called 911 when they saw any sign of suspicious behavior.

It paid off: In only two months the home’s tenants moved out. They had apparently been arrested or simply left because of increased neighborhood scrutiny.

It has given Campbell and others newfound courage that they can help weed out Bremerton’s criminal element — especially the violent aspect.

“I think people need to start taking back neighborhoods,” she said.

Bremerton Detective Robbie Davis said block watches can extend the reach of the police.

“It makes bad guys aware that people are watching and they’re not afraid of them,” he said.

“If you go to a neighborhood looking to commit crime and everybody’s watching you, you’re going to go somewhere else to do your dirty business,”

Block watch groups, however, can be hard to organize and difficult to keep together. Tanya Stansberry, a single mother of four living in Westpark, is attempting to start her own currently. After witnessing arrests and drug activity, she’s reluctant to even let her children play outside their home.

She’s brought the block watch idea to her Neighbors, but senses that people don’t want to spy on each other.

“They feel like they’d be tattling,” Stansberry said. “But I think it’s about being aware.”

Still, persistence pays off, according to Judy McDonald, a resident of Lewis Street in East Bremerton.

When McDonald banded a group of local residents together to watch one house of nefarious individuals, the tenants packed up under the scrutiny.

McDonald recalls one of the tenants sighing in disgust before she left.

“I’m tired of living in a fishbowl,” McDonald reported her as saying.

8 thoughts on “‘We’ll Learn Who We Are’

  1. What responsibility do the owners of the property have?
    How is it they rent to undesirable criminal people? None of such people are likely to pass a application report.

    Why not arrest the landlord at the same time as the tenants?
    The landlords must be held accountable for -apparently – not checking their tenants application statements.

    I know folks who have NEVER had a drug dealing problem with their tenants.
    They investigate each statement on the application and will let a place stay empty until potential tenants pass the scrutiny.
    Their theory is that their tenants must also be good neighbors.. the type of neighbors they themselves would like to live next door to… and be thoughtful and considerate to neighbors and property.
    They in turn respond immediately to every repair needed…very responsive to their tenants and obligations as owners of the property.

    Why doesn’t Bremerton hold the landlords responsible for the illegal actions of their tenants?
    Sharon O’Hara

  2. Sorry … I didn’t answer the question.
    In the neighborhoods I’ve lived in, none had an ‘official’ neighborhood watch.
    What we did have were neighbors who looked out after each other. Strangers were noted and watched…. after all, if one home is robbed without consequence, every body’s home is at risk.

    Good for Bobbi Campbell!
    Seems odd to me that people would consider watching out for the neighborhood ‘tattling’ when watching our for the neighborhood is looking out for their own property and the safety of their own children!

  3. I live in a neighborhood that is difficult to have a neighborhood watch. It goes from blocks to wooded lots. My home being one on a private road and heavily wood lot. Since moving to Port Orchard I have been burglarized and vandalized a few times. Again my house was a target last week. I’m done with that peaceful Rural life. My home was turned upside down, things I cannot replace are destroyed. Windows broken out every drawer dumped closets emptied and scattered, family photos destroyed the list is long. The strangest part of all of this is every box of legal papers I have were gone through and not scattered. My home is virtually unlivable. I have decided that if I live in the middle of an urban neighborhood at least someone might hear something. Even if the police catch who ever did this the odds are that I will never collect restitution. It does not matter if your neighbors are upstanding citizens or bums. Criminals travel. This story even ties into the pitbull story. My oldest son has a pitbull that was in the house when this happened. A poodle or yorkie, would have been a more effective watch dog. I do not believe neighborhood watches or the signs are effective. Burglars do not care. They think they are so good they won’t get caught. At least this time the police took a paint can for prints. The previous experiences I have had filing reports were, a report, no evidence even looked for or gathered, no investigation.

  4. I’m sorry…
    Why didn’t the police check for prints in your house… in places obviously touched by the vandals? I thought officers carried fingerprint material in their cars.

    Did you find the dog previous vandals had stolen?
    Its lucky you weren’t home.
    Have you considered a hidden camera?
    Sharon O’Hara

  5. thank you sharon. I give up I am just moving. I have never once had the police dust for prints. At least this time they did take the spray paint can for prints. No, I never have found Abbie she was a Rott. This dog a Pit. At least they did not steal the dog this time. A hidden camera would never replace the things destroyed that were priceless. Any reasonable rents out there???? It is going to cost a fortune to move and take a long time to repair all this damage.

  6. Last night I received a call from a neighbor her house was also hit yesterday. she lives closer to neighbors and nobody saw or heard anything. The police came out and gave her a card with a case number. No checking for prints or anything else, I believe there is a neighborhood watch sign close to her home. She is considering herself lucky they did not destroy her entire home. They took things that cannot be replaced. That is the worse part of being burglarized. Thank God her son did not come home from school and interrupt this. A small green truck was noticed on her dirt road by neighbors.Nobody thought to get a plate number. Her neighbors were home and close, still whom ever this was got in and out with a large amount of goods unseen. My driveway had tire tracks that my son and I both said “looks like a little truck” judging the width and the way the dirt was imprinted. We can organize all we want and maybe get rid of traffic drawing neighbors, We cannot stop culprits from driving in loading up and vanishing. What has happened to the days that we did not even lock our doors?

  7. Elaine…I once knew of a young girl who was raped… the mother filed charges against the rapist and it went to trial.

    After the mother filed charges, girls and women came out of the woodwork claiming that man had done the same rape to their daughter or themselves…he had apparently raped for years.

    The mother who filed charges asked why they hadn’t prosecuted? … and received two answers… “I didn’t want anyone to know” or… “I didn’t want to get involved”.

    The mother of the latest raped girl couldn’t help but think that had even one of the previous girls filed charges, her own daughter, along with other innocent girls, would have been spared.

    Elaine. No, the camera would not have stopped your loss.
    All it would do is identify the burglars to be caught and prosecuted. It would prevent other people from being vandalized as you were.
    No lives were lost…this time
    Sharon O’Hara

  8. Sharon you are right.It is too late now for surveillance. My neighbor and I, who ironically I grew up with in California have made some progress in possibly finding at least her thief. “Out of the mouths of babes” There are some indications that things fitting the description of my missing items may also be at the same place. So tomorrow I will make a call to the sheriffs and see if they came up with any prints off the paint can. It is amazing how small Kitsap really is. Hopefully the Erin Brockovich syndrome I have been blessed with, will pan out. It is a sad place to be in life for someone that has absolutely no self respect. My biggest worry is that if we are right there are little kids in that home.

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