COLUMBUS (WCMH) – It is difficult to get one out of every three people to agree on anything, but in the Westgate neighborhood in Hilltop, one out of three houses agree it’s time to get tough on crime.
They don’t have funding from Columbus Police for a neighborhood watch, but they aren’t whining about crime. They’re actually stopping it.
Violent crime all around Columbus has reached record levels in consecutive years, which is right around the time Westgate formed its own community watch group.
“When we started, it was just a handful of us that grew to about 50 of us,” said “Sal,” the co-founder of the group. “We had a meeting at the Hilltop Library and decided we needed a new approach to crime prevention.”
NBC 4 is protecting the identities of watch members because criminals are watching, too.
The group’s Facebook Watch group has grown exponentially over the last two and a half years.
“Our group is over 700 members,” “Stan” said.
One in three houses in the neighborhood is represented in the watch. Stan sold his business and now patrols his neighborhood like it’s his job.
“We are involved in the recovery of one stolen vehicle every week,” Stan said proudly.
Personal surveillance cameras are everywhere.
“Package thefts in this area have virtually been erased,” Stan said.
The group is providing police and prosecutors with evidence to put criminals away.
“Anyone that’s part of their group in their neighborhood that are willing to ban together and come forward with information not only to the police but informational sharing in their own neighborhood, you are always going to have a safer, more practical neighborhood to live in,” said Columbus Police Sgt. James Fuqua.
Members of the group don’t confront criminals. Westgate’s eyes and ears are literally stopping criminals in the act, and letting the police do the rest.
When asked if he feels safe patrolling his neighborhood, Sal answered, “Yes, I feel safe because I have 700 neighbors watching my back all the time.”