A Jackson County deputy is touring the county, trying to put the neighbor back in the ’hood.
“I’m noticing a trend,” crime-prevention officer Darius Wilson, a veteran of the Seabees, told the relatively new Ocean Springs Lions Club on Thursday. “Neighbors don’t know each other.
“I’ve learned that people right next door to each other don’t know each other. I’ve learned we’re shifting from a homeowner society to a renter society and I’m learning that makes a big difference. The pride in just cutting your grass, the pride in making sure your house is presentable, the pride in making sure there is no trash on your street — that’s gone.”
The same could be said of the Neighborhood Watch program. A neighborhood has a rash of burglaries. A Neighborhood Watch program is started. Signs are put up in the neighborhood’s entrance. The burglars move on. Interest in the program dwindles.
“Neighborhood Watch becomes a rallying cry when something bad is going on,” said Wilson, a native of Maryland. “We’ll come together, everybody’s going to have an idea, nobody’s going to have a solution, and they’ll put it on the Police Department to take care of the matter. And then we go home.”
Wilson said social media is making it easier to keep Neighborhood Watch active.
His Savannah Pines neighborhood in Moss Point has a closed Facebook page, for example. Closed, he said, because “you don’t want to let the criminals in.”
The page has everything from items for sale to stray pets to suspicious characters.
“The trend is going,” he said. But just like the physical meetings, the Facebook pages require tending. “That’s the wave of the future.”
The old Neighborhood Watch signs, he said, are all but obsolete.
“Criminals aren’t intimidated by these anymore,” he said, holding up a sign. “But if you have the spirit of Neighborhood Watch, if criminals know you’re going to call the police for everything ... every time a officer comes into your neighborhood, that’s invaluable because it establishes a presence.”
The bad guys, he said, pay attention.
But even the Facebook pages have slow spells. If too much time passes between posts, Wilson said he jumps on and tries to restart the conversation.
“Once you get it going,” he said, “you have to put your foot on the accelerator and push down hard.”