A new sheriff in town: Dyker Heights residents start community watch

Speeders, marijuana smokers and firework enthusiasts, beware. In the coming months, Dyker Heights residents will be banding together as a community of eyes and ears to crack down on quality-of-life issues in their neighborhood.

Fran Vella-Marrone, president of the Dyker Heights Civic Association, announced on November 11 by email a new Dyker Heights community crime-watch. The new program was then discussed in the association’s November 14 meeting to a packed room of parents and residents who were in a attendance to express their distress about an earlier incident when a man — who had been seen taking photos nearby as well as near St. Ephrem School — entered St. Bernadette School last week.

The program will connect residents through an email chain through which they can share information and report small crimes, spreading information on what to be on the lookout for in hopes of scaring away the perpetrators.

“This whole thing is to be a deterrent,” said Vella-Marrone, “so that those that come to our community trying to do harm or trying to do something that’s good for the community in some way will know that somebody is watching them.”

While the 68th Precinct is one of the safest in Brooklyn with only 0.498 Crimes per 1,000 residents, according to the NYC Crime Map, quality-of-life crimes like speeding, drugs, excessive noise and illegal firework use are not uncommon.

“Now we have great policing but they obviously can’t be everywhere, do everything,” said Vella-Marrone, discussing understaffing at the local precinct, which has still driven down crime this year by 5.73 percent as of November 12. “This is in no way a reflection on our local police…. They are obviously stretched very, very thin. We are not here combat them. We are here to support them.”

Vella-Marrone said that the network of residents will take place mostly online at first in what she call more of a “virtual watch.” Residents will email each other about small crimes happening in the neighborhood, some of which will then be reported to police depending on severity.

“It’s a good way to just stay in touch and communicate with each other even if it’s just about basic quality-of-life issues, if there’s something going on in the community that people want everyone to know about,” she said. “It’s a good way to communicate.”

Vella-Marrone said reporting the crimes through the watch will be helpful for the police and residents. Reporting as a group instead of on an individual level will avoid inundating the police with similar calls and with multiple eyes on the street, the group hopes to have more information than that which could be provided by just one resident, giving the police a bigger picture and more detail on each incident.

Dozens of people have signed up so far.

The email chain system is only the first step, though. According to Vella-Marrone, down the road they hope expand the program by getting matching lawn signs that advertise the watch and warn any potential criminals that they are being watched.

“Once the word gets out that we have this watch going on, people that come into our community and do harm to our community are going to realize that somebody is watching them and they’re going to have no idea who’s watching them and what’s being reported,” she said.

While many parents were at the most recent meeting to discuss the recent incidents at schools in the neighborhood, Vella-Marrone said this community-watch program has been in the works for months.

“It had nothing to do with that,” she said. According to her, the quality-of-life issues have been a constant source of complaints for Dyker residents. “It was just a matter of, you know, ‘hey, we need to do something here. We need to step up and take a little bit more of an active role in the community.’”

Vella-Marrone expects the program to launch next month. Interested residents can get involved by emailing [email protected].


Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.