The Hyattsville City Police Department reviewed the year in crime statistics last night at a community meeting held at St. Matthews Episcopal Church on 36th Street in West Hyattsville
While the meeting primarily was focused on citywide crime stats, it was also an informal celebration of a new, emerging dynamic in West Hyattsville which has seen a small group of neighbors band together to form, in less than a year, perhaps the most active neighborhood watch association in the city, with regular resident patrols organized by email.
After Hyattsville Police Chief Doug Holland reviewed 2012's declining crime numbers (those numbers were previously reviewed in a January Hyattsville Patch article), Sgt. Chris Purvis, the city police's public information officer and leader of the department's community outreach efforts, held a question and answer session which focused on tips for neighborhood watch organizers and clarifying police procedures. Residents were encouraged to continue to keep an eye out for criminal activity in their neighborhoods and to never hesitate to call the police if they see something suspicious
"People seem to be getting excited and encouraged, and that's increasing," said Holland, after the meeting. "To me, that's very encouraging…and we're seeing some results, especially in this part of town"
Alexi Boado, one of the primary organizers of the still rather informal West Hyattsville neighborhood association, speculated that demographic shifts caused by the effects of the housing market crash has brought more stable residents to his side of Queens Chapel Road.
"This is anecdotal, but I feel like before the housing bubble, we had a lot of people moving into the neighborhood who really couldn't afford their home," said Boado after the meeting. "After the bubble crashed, you had those homes going into foreclosure and then you had people coming into the neighborhood who could actually afford these homes at these reset home values."
Those new residents, according to Boado, helped to provide a foundation upon which the neighborhood could organize itself to address crime and policy concerns on their city block.
"You're talking about the addition of, maybe, 15 people," said Boado. But it's the addition of 15 critical people who I didn't have before who are willing to do neighborhood patrols and hand out flyers."
Holland said that he'd love to see more neighborhoods become as active as West Hyattsville has over the last year.
"A lot of folks do it already, in informal ways," said Holland. "I am interested in doing it on a broader basis, though."