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Omaha homeowners frustrated by frequent crime create relaxed but successful neighborhood watch

Posted at 5:22 AM, Apr 12, 2023

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — We've heard of catalytic converter theft, porch pirates and other crimes happening in neighborhoods and sometimes they're even caught on home cameras, but some neighbors, fed up with the crime, took things into their own hands, creating a successful neighborhood watch.

Joe and Nancy Teeples moved to the Somerset neighborhood, about three years ago.

"We saw that there were people breaking into houses, stealing stuff from cars, stealing mail, the old porch pirates, that type of stuff," said Joe Teeples, co-coordinator of Somerset Neighborhood watch.

Sharon Johnson has lived in the neighborhood for 25 years.

"The big joke is I am kind of the neighborhood, Mrs. Kravitz, I am going to be watching what's going on and responding appropriately," said Johnson, co-coordinator of Somerset Neighborhood watch.

But the three likely wouldn't have met if it weren't for their joint concern for their neighborhood, through the Nextdoor app.

"We got some interesting conversations and one of them was from Sharon Johnson who I didn't know," Teeples said.

"That's why we got together and figured, put the coffee on, we are coming over and we are going to talk about what we can do to keep each other safe and protect each other," Johnson said.

And three years ago, an idea percolated, and the Somerset Neighborhood Watch was formed.

When they started their watch, Teeples said there were about three incidents per week but he says that has been cut down significantly.

"Right now I would say we get a report about once every three weeks," Teeples said.

And their strategy is really quite simple.

"Keep your doors locked, don't put things of value in your car, don't leave wallets, purses, laptops," Johnson said.

"We don't have uniforms, we don't have jackets, we do periodically do patrols," Teeples said.

Neighbors are encouraged to keep their porch lights on and many have cameras.

"If I don't get you on my camera, my neighbor is going to get you on his camera, and if I get you on a camera and it's a fleeting shot, he may get the license plate," Teeples said.

The two, have also developed a strong relationship with law enforcement, their neighborhood falls in county jurisdiction, therefore the Sheriff's Office would respond instead of Omaha police. Joe and Sharon learned from the Sheriff, that neighbors should be calling 911 directly instead of any non-emergency line.

"If you dial 911 it's a report, and that goes into their data base and now when the sheriff looks at this, he can say, I've got a big problem over here," Teeples said.

But more than anything, "It's important to get to know your immediate neighbors, and that doesn't mean anybody has to become a busybody and invade your privacy, as much as it is if you are going on vacation let a couple of trusted neighbors know," Johnson said.

Their neighborhood watch has been a success. Building a friendship — all while creating a safer community.

Johnson also mentioned, hosting neighborhood get togethers, like 'marshmallow roasts' has helped to build a community and get to know their neighbors. If you or your neighborhood want to try something like this, Joe and Sharon encourage you to try these tips, to see what works for your community, and you can also contact them through Nextdoor.

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