We Watch, We Call? I hope that ain’t all!

aka "Welcome to my block move RIGHT or I'll call my glock!"

Across North Minneapolis a wave of signs are popping-up in various neighborhoods.

They proudly declare “WE WATCH, WE CALL” under the by-line “For Safe Neighborhoods” and carry the logo for the 4th Precinct CARE Task Force. http://wewatchwecall.com/

I applaud the desire to help bring community members together and I support efforts to fight crime. I have worked for over 20 years to help make my neighborhood a safer (and friendlier) community.  My wife and I frequently Watch and Call.  However helping to create a strong community needs more than threats to call the police, consider the statement one North Minneapolis resident posted on the “We Watch We Call” web site.

“I’ve seen a number of these signs pop-up in the neighborhood, and I can’t help but notice that, with few exceptions, they are in white homeowners yards. “We call” obviously conveys “we call 911″ and that the police are on our side. The message, as simple as it is, draws a line in the sand and puts more then just ‘criminals’ firmly on the other side. It puts anyone with hesitation about police involvement in a threatened position. Regardless of how outstanding much of the 4th precinct police force is, you can’t ignore 1) the historical abuse of power of police in Minneapolis and nationwide against the black community and 2) the recent cases of police abuse specifically in Minneapolis. These signs are nothing more then a threat of police power, a firm acknowledgment that there is a division in this community, not unity. Consider a rewording that conveys that we engage with our neighbors, we know the kids down the street and we can call their parents when they are being too loud, that we are a unified community and neighborhood.”

I wondered why I felt uncomfortable about the signs when I first saw them, now I’m able to articulate it.  I agree with this letter writer.  The signs are about a threat, not an invitation to community, they are about sustaining divisions, not about creating unity.

Over the years we have learned the best crime fighting technique is to get to know the names and faces of your neighbors, and for them to learn that you are a neighbor and desire to be a friend who respects them and expects to be respected in return.  When that isn’t possible and crime is occurring – call the police!   I usually call 911 two – three times each month, however I talk to neighbors (and may even confront the behavior of potential criminals) daily.

Yet, many of the new wave of gentrifying North Minneapolis folk seem to be so afraid of their neighbors they call police when they should just walk out the door and be a neighbor!  I say that because last summer that was the problem on our block.  This crisis of relationships was somewhat resolved when “concerned homeowners” and the “problem” youth met face to face and the parents of the youth said “here is my number, if my kid disrespects you call me – don’t just peek out the window and call the police.”

There is already enough sense of separation and isolation in our community; there are already enough “one glance judgments” (a.k.a. stereotypes and prejudice).  I don’t believe signs that pit the people in their homes against people on foot or in their cars will help us create a better neighborhood.  I’m not advocating for foolishness, I’m just saying “Be a neighbor, not a threat.”

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17 thoughts on “We Watch, We Call? I hope that ain’t all!”

  1. I like that, also. although my more recent attempt at talking to the neighbor herself resulted in a cussing out. an email to the city thereafter seems to have resolved things.

  2. I have lived in my neighborhood since 1996. We have only one new neighbor at this time, they are afraid. All of our neighbors know each other and watch out for each other. We talk and get to know each other. I do not understand why someone would move into an area they are afraid of?
    Yes, we have had over the years persons who are not from our area come through and try to do criminal things and we have called the police who very often do not show up at all or when they do show up seemed to be bothered we have called.
    I had to help translate for our Hmong neighbor to the police when someone tried to break into their van. Our other neighbors came out and with the community we finally got them to write up a report so he could get a case number.
    We are all human beings including the police.
    We have Puerto Rican neighbors, African neighbors, African American neighbors, EuroAmerican neighbors the “action word” is neighbors, which equals to a strong community.

  3. Great post Marque. I too have felt very uncomfortable with the signs… I emailed out to my neighborhood email “group” and asked for people to explain more the “effectiveness” of the signs [and therefore the purpose] and not one person responded.

    I think it’s crazy because people put them up and think they’ll “work” — and I’m guessing that is not the case either.

  4. I really get tired of the blacks complaining. They are responsible for 90% of the crime in our city. They should have the cops called on them each and every time they get outta line. Quit whining and start acting like civilized human beings.
    http://www.amren.com

    1. dang ricky… what color are you? – I’m complaining and I’m not black – 90% of our crime is from blacks? where do you get your stats?

    1. sorry I missed your comment – I was gone for a while – I love how you assume if I didn’t approve it in a week I was not allowing disagreement – lol – what else do you want to say?

  5. Obviously you don’t live in our neighborhood where we had shootings, killings, drug deals, robberies, etc. As a block leader I have tried to reach out, talk to people, include them in, but there are times that people don’t want a relationship. They have created an atmosphere of chaos so they can continue their activities. We have tried the approach of trying to talk about disrespectful kids to their parents, but got no response and one individual was threatened with phyical violence. To recommend people to approach a situation where illegal activity is taking place is foolish and unsafe. You must always assess the situation before just assuming “talk” will solve it. Our neighborhood got into the situation it was because NOBODY called the police for fear of reprisals. That only started to turn around after we lifted the fear of calling. Now people can get to know their neighbors without fear of being shot or robbed. Our signs are ONLY targeted to those who come into our neighborhood with their illegal activities to let them know that we AS a community will not tolerate it. I am offended by the assumption that I am rascist because of a sign put out for protection for my family and neighbors… and has it helped? YES! Crime has plummeted in our neighborhood. Please, don’t throw out blanket judgements on us…I agree that there is “enough of one glance judgements” as that is what is being done by saying we are divisive by a sign on our yard. Maybe a little background history is on order before the judgement call.

    1. Jennifer writes, “Obviously you don’t live in our neighborhood where we had shootings, killings, drug deals, robberies, etc.”
      – ahhhh Jennifer the “Obviously” is wrong

      so “Maybe a little background history is on order before the judgement call.”

      Please, re-read my post and tell me what you really disagree with.

      1. I disagree with the assumption that the sign in the front yard means that we haven’t already met our neighbors, talked to them, or helped them. I also disagree that the signs target our neighbors which creates an atmosphere of dissension and racism. The reason we took up the responsibility of block leaders was to unite our neighbors, alleviate the fear by having everyone meet each other and get to know who lived by them. We have succeeded in that. Now we see people visiting in each other’s yards, lending a helping hand, and have run two very successful NNO. I absolutely agree that we must know and talk to one another….but my issue is the labeling that went along with anyone who happened to also have a sign in their yard. The signs aren’t being used as a “threat” except to let anyone who would think it okay to rob, or drug deal in front of my house to think again (and no, I’m not going to go out to confront them). Each block is different and with unique problems…ours has been particulary difficult. But we have united together as a community (white, black, Asian) to promote a block that is safe, secure, and open.

  6. The types of activities targeted by this sign include drug deals, gun fights, assaults on innocent victims, and husbands/boyfriends beating their smaller wives/girlfriends. All of these crimes happened outside of my house over a 3/week period in Oct-Nov last year. Each of them happened more than once. All of these crimes also have far-reaching consequences, affecting children and elderly bystanders. The problem I have w/ the caption “move right or I’ll call my glock” is that it rushes to judgment at a rate equal to the “whites” who apparently call w/o being neighbors. We absolutely must be neighbors to one another, but there is a real and present crisis of criminal behavior which neighborliness does not resolve. Many people use the patience and “neighborliness” of kind people to perpetrate their crimes more efficiently. As much as I appreciate the community intent of the above post, it does not consider the question of justice… justice for innocent victims of drug trading and violence. (I also agree that the Minn PD needs to do a better job of creating trust equity; i.e. better relational skills and less aggression). This post is misguided in that it does not consider that many of us are enraged at willful crime and innocent victims (children, elderly, families who pay the price of violence allowed to grow). On the other hand, I find ground for agreement: Get outside, meet your neighbors, help them, watch out for their kids, invite them over, and understand before judging. Those who have these signs are not racists, they love their community, but the conversation needs to take their intentions more into account.

    1. Scott – continuing my comments to Jennifer – I’ve been in the neighborhood for over 20 years – this last spat of crime is serious – but we’ve seen worse – there have been times when I’ve called police every day for a month or more – I’m not opposed to calling, I just “HOPE that AINT ALL”

      the best deterrent to crime is to meet neighbors and to know them – without an agenda – and then when you have an issue you can have some respect to stand on – I’ve seen it work, many times – and frankly if people want the Northside – you gotta be willing to BE a neighbor and not expect it to be like Maple Grove..

  7. Hey Jennifer – I’m glad to hear you are doing what you are doing! Sorry I didn’t get replied to you sooner… I’ve been in a bit of a blog-fast – 🙂

    I don’t mean to be labeling anyone – but to say there are other ways these signs are viewed by people within our neighborhood who do not always experience the police as “friends” who only threaten those who do wrong.

    The first line in building community is engagement (as you said) and to me the signs indicate the first action is to call the police.

    It’s not a matter of right or wrong – but is that your FIRST or last response?

  8. I don’t have a positive first response to sign campaigns. In Montgomery one of the larger black churches has led an “Enough is Enough” campaign against violent crime. Including signs. I think it is bearing fruit. But it has to do with the integrity of the effort. They have demonstrated staying power and recognized the kinds of relational issues you address. For example, there is no curfew law in Montgomery and late night party facilities have been a big problem. The pastor has been going with others into the clubs and just talking with folk.

    My neighborhood very actively works with the police. The neighborhood next to us (about 3 blocks away) has lots of problems getting persons to call, etc. The whole area is black and the police force is about like Montgomery (50-50). I can see the legitimacy of a “We call” theme–but it does need the integrity of the kinds of stuff you highlight.

    One thing I have learned in Montgomery is we could have the same range of perspectives you confront on this–but largely apart from issues of race. So its always hard figuring out how the race stuff comes into play. And its not fair to expect new neighbors to somehow have a genius as to overcoming racial issues that were centuries in the making.

    Someone asking the questions (ie you) is very important. How do we ask questions with a grace that gives the space for persons to walk out a life-long journey; and yet an impatience that does not allow folks to ignore the questions?

  9. Why blame the neighbors, it’s the gangbangers, rapists, thugs, murderers, thieves, dealers, lazy, amoral, ignorant, user, parasites who are the problem. I know ALL my neighbors. I know what they drive and what visiting family drives. Everyone knows and watches out for all kids in the neighborhood. Believe me if someone comes in our neighborhood who dosen’t live here, they are watched. We have NO crime here. Because we don’t tolerate crimnals here. I have lived here 5 years and NEVER called 911. It’s sad that your neighbors have so much crime that they live in fear not from neighbors, but criminals. It’s telling that you castigate law-abiding, taxpaying, residents in favor of those who prey on them. Gentrifiers I guess.

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