So far, Tyler Donovan’s call to put together a neighbourhood watch group for Westsyde hasn’t sparked a flood of volunteers to come forward.
In fact, the only other patroller he’s got signed up so far is his neighbour.
But that’s not discouraging Donovan. The father of three expects it’ll take a while for word to get around and for people to realize there is a benefit to having a neighbourhood watch program.
“People need to stand up. As a community we can effect change and make things better,” he said Monday.
“Some want to turn a blind eye or don’t feel there’s a problem. But in the past couple of weeks, there’s been a lot of vandalism at Centennial Park, garbage cans set on fire.”
A few weeks ago, Donovan asked around about a neighbourhood watch. Those he spoke to didn’t think the area had one. He set up meeting at the park, but the turnout was disappointing.
That’s when he decided to start small and hope others would join in.
For the past two weekends, Donovan and his partner have donned high-visibility vests, packed their flashlights and walked the area around Oak Hills and Centennial Park on Friday and Saturday nights.
“We went out and introduced ourselves to people around the neighbourhood,” he said.
The need for a watch has become apparent to him as he’s been out and about.
“Forty-five minutes after we passed the Catholic church, the church bus was broken into.”
They have found groups of kids hanging around dark school yards or in Centennial Park. One night, he encountered the same teenagers three or four times — each time, the group was bigger.
Wherever they had been, there were graffiti and beer cans found afterward.
Neighbourhood watch is about having eyes out on the streets, not about taking the law into their own hands, he stressed.
“We just observe and report. We’re not there to make an arrest. But if we do see something, we’re going to report it.”
Ideally, Donovan would like the watch group to get big enough that several pairs of people can be out five nights a week in different parts of Westsyde. The area is too big for just two people to cover.
“We’d like at least five nights a week, just walking your area and keeping an eye of what’s going on around you,” he said.
He has called the police once. That large group of kids who seemed to be leaving beer cans behind had a few members who were definitely drunk.
“The group wouldn’t leave and were getting loud, so we called police. A few of them were really drunk and were getting really lippy with us. I expected them to push back, to them we’re a version of authority.
“We just called it in.”
Donovan said he’d like more volunteers to come forward. The group has a Facebook page where people can get more information or ask questions.
“Westsyde is a large area, very spread out. We can’t do it all, we both have full time jobs and families. We can’t be out there all the time. So we’re doing our area, Oak Hills, Centennial, Arthur Stevenson and along the dike.”
While some people have said they support what he’s doing, none have come forward to help yet.
He understands teenagers are bored and there’s little for them to do in Westsyde. They’re going to gather. But that doesn’t mean they should be allowed to vandalize property.
“This is our local kids doing this. Do these parents know where their kids are?” he said.
“If you can only volunteer a couple hours, that’s all it needs to be. And we’ll try to pair you up in your area. We’re trying to get funding for the vests and flashlights.”
So far, the shifts have started at about 9 p.m. and gone until about 11 p.m., but it depends on how busy the streets are and, of course, the weather.
“If it’s quiet on a cold rainy night, we don’t expect to find much.”
More information about the burgeoning group is available on Facebook at Westsyde Neighborhood-watch. Or email Donovan at email@example.com.