Orlando neighborhood watch group credited with drastic drop in crime

Burglaries down 73 percent in area, police chief says

By Erik von Ancken - Anchor/Reporter

ORLANDO, Fla. - When Janet Walker sees a package sitting on her neighbor's porch, she hides it.

When she sees a newspaper laying on a neighbor's driveway after several days, she moves it.

"How hard is it to walk over and pick up the newspaper that was delivered on Sunday? How hard is that?" Walker said. "Go pick it up and hide it around the corner somewhere. Go pick up the packages." 

Walker is her block captain for the Lake Eola Heights Neighborhood Watch Group (LEHNWG). 

It's one of the most effective neighborhood watch groups in the City of Orlando, according to Orlando Police Chief Orlando Rolon.

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"As a result of their participation, we have seen a drastic reduction in crime," Rolon said. "Eighteen percent overall, 73 percent in burglaries in this area."

Rolon said LEHNWG took first place in the 2018 National Night Out Theme Contest.

"Lake Eola Heights is getting results," Rolon said. "They are getting it right and should be a model for others trying to do the same."

Walker admitted it helps that neighbors like to walk, jog and take their pets for a stroll, but added they have to want to get to know each other and be motivated to watch out for each other.

"If you don't do it, it's not going to happen," Walker said. "You can't just come home and lock yourself in your house every day and expect things to go your way."

Walker said many of her neighbors have installed Ring video doorbells and share their videos of suspicious people and incidents.

They post regularly to a Facebook group with almost 3,000 members -- and they have regular block parties.

Rolon said neighbors in Lake Eola Heights see their success in crime reduction and are encouraged by it.

"I think everyone takes pride that they're a resident of the neighborhood, one as a neighborhood, and because they have practiced this and put in place," Rolon said.

Rolon said the Orlando Police Department is a driving force behind neighborhood watch groups. Officers are assigned to areas and spend time in those areas getting to know those neighbors and teaching them to take care of each other.

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The Orlando Police Department placed first in the nation for its neighborhood watch program last year, according to Rolon.

"We are one of the most active neighborhood watch programs that any community would want to have," Rolon said.

In 2018, Orlando hosted 100 block parties in neighborhood around the city. That number grew from 39 in 2001, according to Rolon.

If you're interested in starting a neighborhood watch group in Orlando, click here.

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