AUSTIN (KXAN) - Homeowners in Austin are cracking down on crime in their neighborhoods with a new kind of neighborhood watch.
In Barton Hills , volunteers have organized to patrol their neighborhood up to seven hours each day. Since they first began patrols in 2009, home burglaries in the area have dropped 70 percent and car burglaries are down by half.
"There's no more powerful crime prevention tool than an alert neighbor and we've tried to take that to another level," said John Luther, who created the volunteer program that has been so successful. "It's very high risk for a burglar to operate in this community."
Luther and dozens of other volunteers drive their personal vehicles with a magnetic placard on the door that shows they are with the Neighborhood Watch. The goal is to be highly visible.
"We're looking for garage doors that are open, we're looking to see that the front doors are closed," said Luther during a recent patrol. "We just cruise these streets up and down and nobody is given a particular pattern, each patroller chooses his own route."
They drive the neighborhood streets for an hour at a time and make notes about anything they see that is suspicious. Volunteers are not allowed to get out of their vehicles and are instructed to call 911 if they see a crime in progress. They may only patrol with a cell phone in their vehicle.
The success in Barton Hills has inspired another neighborhood group to begin similar patrols in Travis Heights, one of Austin's largest neighborhoods. The South River City Citizens neighborhood association has nearly three dozen volunteers already and their patrols began Monday.
"We're not trying to replace the police, merely to supplement them, become more eyes, more ears and become better neighbors," said organizer Dennis Cudd.
Cudd said the average start up cost for this style of neighborhood watch is around $1,000 for signs and placards.
Austin Police Department representatives said they support these organized neighborhood watch groups and stress that any neighborhood can participate with guidance from APD.
Click here to contact your local district representative for information about how to start a neighborhood crime watch.
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